Lawrence Shankland handed player of year endorsement as Hearts boss Steven Naismith names key changes

Steven Naismith believes Lawrence Shankland deserves to be named Scotland’s player of the year. The Hearts skipper has netted 28 times this season - 29 including his late equaliser for Scotland in Georgia - and looks set to be named in Steve Clarke’s squad for the Euros.

He has now banged in 56 goals in two seasons for Hearts and Naismith reckons the 28-year-old is a more complete striker than 12 months ago. Naismith said: “I think he's got a really good chance. For two seasons in a row, to score the amount of goals that he has, and then on top of that his performances.

“If there's one moment to look at, then it's the narrative of not making the Scotland squad, to making the Scotland squad, to 'can he be number nine and can he go to the Euros?’, to 'is he going to be our number nine?’ That shows you how far he's progressed this season. He showed in the Holland game that he can be a target man as well as being a good finisher. If I'm honest I think he's in with a right good chance of winning it.

"I first came across Shanks when I played with him for Scotland and he was just a finisher. From then until now, he's an all-round centre-forward. He's got real intelligence, a great touch, can score and his hold-up play is good. He's definitely progressed into an all-round forward.

“We’ve worked a lot this season on that part of it. He’s been receptive to doing it. He’s not just wanted to be in the box and scoring goals. It’s taken his game to a different level. He’s a better player now than a year ago and it helps that he has that versatility.

“Very rarely can you go into a game just being the same and go and win it. So you need a bit of versatility and it’s just small changes. Shanks has that understanding and intelligence to work it out.”

Shankland leads the Premiership scoring charts by four goals from Rangers skipper James Tavernier. And Naismith reckons it’s more difficult for non Old Firm players to win the overall player of the year award - due to agendas elsewhere.

He said: “You don’t often see it but that’s the agendas of other people who make these decisions rather than people looking at it subjectively and looking at the stats, performances and all the rest of it. I think Shanks has a good chance of winning it this year and if he does it’s probably a bigger achievement than an Old Firm player winning it.”