Former fan faces ex-Blues favourite
MATT Richards' only experience of the play-offs was as a supporter who went on to cheer in every one of the four goals at Wembley.He was a 15-year-old wannabe who had admired from afar the skills of David Johnson during the promotion season and the likes of Richard Naylor and Martijn Reuser on that balmy May day.
MATT Richards' only experience of the play-offs was as a supporter who went on to cheer in every one of the four goals at Wembley, writes Derek Davis.
He was a 15-year-old wannabe who had admired from afar the skills of David Johnson during the promotion season and the likes of Richard Naylor and Martijn Reuser on that balmy May day.
Now he is very much a part of the Ipswich side ready to launch a final offensive on reaching a top six place.
Richards, now 18, said: "I was playing in Academy sides and watching as a supporter. I went to Wembley and even though I was not directly involved it was a great personal feeling.
"David Johnson was one of my heroes then and it is weird now to think, not only am I playing alongside some of those players from that day but I'm up against one.
"I could well be marking him, although they also have great forwards in Marlon Harewood and Darren Huckerby to watch out for.
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"Johnno is a great player and I will need to be fully concentrated and on top of my game. They are all quick so I know I need to play well."
A strong versatile defender, who could have been a rugby player of a decent standard, Richards is relishing the tutelage of Town's canny defensive coaches who have played top level football.
He said: "Willie Donachie and Tony Mowbray especially have been brilliant with me working on the defence and Joe as well when we bring the attack and defence together."
Richards made his debut for Ipswich as a 17-year-old against Avenir Beggen in Luxembourg and has gone on to establish himself on the left side, switching from defence to attack at a stroke with a dozen appearances under his belt already.
He said: "It has been an unbelievable season for me. At the start of the season I was just focusing on getting a regular reserve team place and then hoping by about this time to start pushing for a first team place.
"To make my senior debut in the UEFA Cup last August was incredible and my involvement has grown and grown.
"I now feel very much part of the first team squad, I'm one of them now and training with them all the time has helped me come on. I still have a lot to learn but I feel my game has improved and I have come on.
"The prospect of getting into the play-off places is so exciting. And just thinking about getting into the Premiership is amazing. It is everyone's ambition here and I really hope I can do that with Ipswich."
With six games to go, Town know they need Wolves and Forest to slip up but Richards is firmly convinced another final beckons.
He added: "I genuinely believe we can get into the top six. We are playing well and there is no reason why we can't beat anyone when we are on top of our game and that includes Forest on Saturday and even Portsmouth."
From the heart as a fan but now from the head as a player.