TOFFEES ENTER NAYSMITH RACE
By Phil Gordon
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Walter Smith is scheduled to hold talks with the Scotland international on Friday after tabling an offer which exceeds the one made by The Sky Blues this week.
Smith topped the £1.3 million fee that had been agreed between the Tynecastle club and Coventry with a £1.5 million bid and the 21-year-old will now travel to Merseyside, instead of the Midlands, for personal talks on Friday.
The dramatic move is believed to have been prompted by Naysmith`s excellent form for Scotland over the last five days, in the World Cup double-header in San Marino and Croatia, when the full back impressed Scotland assistant boss Archie Knox, who is also Smith`s right-hand man at Everton.
The news will come as a blow to City boss Strachan, who has trailed Naysmith for several months, but it emerged that The Sky Blues only wanted to pay £750,000 up front, with the rest coming after a substantial number of appearances.
Hearts` financial situation has necessitated the sale of one of their most highly-regarded players, they are reportedly losing £250,000 a month, and Naysmith is known to be keen to move south of the border, in order to further his career.
With only 18 months left on his contract, the risk of losing out completely, as they did when Paul Ritchie waited for his deal to expire and become a free agent, has proved too great for The Jambos.
A five-year contract is on offer at Highfield Road and Strachan was hopeful of landing his man.
However, Everton`s late intervention should prove decisive with Smith keen to increase his defensive options at Goodison.
Hearts` supporters chief John Borthwick complained: "Gary is the latest in a long line of players who have left us.
"The least the board can do is give Jim Jefferies some money to strengthen the squad.
"It is heartbreaking to watch star players leave and it cannot be allowed to go on - Hearts are supposed to be the third-biggest club in Scotland."