Bam Bam puts dark days behind him
WHILE the debuts of the Blues new signings were much-heralded, Richard Naylor's return after a year's absence was like getting in a new player.Naylor was a surprise inclusion in the win at Crystal Palace and kept his place for the home win over Blackpool along with Velice Sumulikoski, David Norris, Alan Quinn and Stephen Bywater with Nick Colgan on the bench.
WHILE the debuts of the Blues new signings were much-heralded, Richard Naylor's return after a year's absence was like getting in a new player.
Naylor was a surprise inclusion in the win at Crystal Palace and kept his place for the home win over Blackpool along with Velice Sumulikoski, David Norris, Alan Quinn and Stephen Bywater with Nick Colgan on the bench.
Naylor said: “It was good to come back in and that coincided with the five new lads in January. That combination has given the club a lift and we have competition all over the pitch now.
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“Everyone who is playing has to look over the shoulder at who could come in and that is good, healthy competition.”
Unlike the January debut-makers, Naylor is a veteran at Portman Road and the Blues' longest serving player will today equal Roy Bailey as the clubs 18th highest all-time appearances maker with 346 games.
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His Championship start against Blackpool pushed him ahead of Eric Gates in 16th place for the amount of league games played with 297, pushing his mate Simon Milton down to 19th.
Naylor joked: “I'm just happy to have overtaken Milts.
“I have been at this club for so long and I feel I still have something to contribute. I have no illusions about me being one of the greatest Town players but I have always dug in and worked hard for the club.
“I did have to work hard to get into a position where the gaffer decided to play me and I have to do well to stay in the side, although I'm confident that I will.”
All the more amazing for Naylor is he is still a relatively young - 31 next Thursday if you want to send a card - and his career has been hampered by injuries to virtually every part of his body.
In the past he has played with a fractured leg but his most recent set back was a slipped disc in his neck. That came after a toe operation and Naylor admits he went through some dark days spent training alone for hours on end wondering what the future holds.
He said: “You still worry about not being able to play and being injured and I was desperate to get back playing and contribute.
“You don't feel part of things when you are out and there is nothing better than playing, winning away and people talking about promotion. That is what you are in the game for.
“I have really enjoyed the past few weeks and I feel invigorated. You do worry that perhaps the body can't cope but to be honest I have had so many injuries so I know it is not age related. I don't feel a 30-year-old player. I still feel fresh and raring to go.
“Some players never get injuries other have loads and you just have to get on with it and come back as soon as you can.
“Some players find it very difficult to come back from injuries. They put on weight and it takes longer to get back and longer to find their form. I'm very dedicated and that is why I have been here so long.
“A lot of players hate swimming and I'm no different because I hate training on my own but I appreciate that you have to do it to get back. You only get one or two chances to get back in the team when you come back from injury and you have to take them or you are on the sidelines for a long time.
“The only way you can take that chance is by being at top fitness.”
But Naylor has been through it all before and was motivated by the knowledge that he was good enough to come back, and the possibility of playing in the Premiership.
Naylor said: “You look and think I still could rather than I am going to.
“I see players in the premier league I have played with or against who are still doing well and think I'm as good as him. I'm quicker than him, I'm stronger than him, so you look at players and think they are doing it so I can do it. I have been around a long time and know what the standard is all about and you appreciate if you can or can't do it and I'm confident I can still do it.
“It is realistic that Town can get back into the Premiership. We have been fantastic at home and in recent weeks our away form has really come on and we have been getting wins. We have shown we know what we have to do.”
Naylor is not convinced that Jim Magilton side matches up to George Burley's winning group but believes the Championship is easier to get out of than it was eight year's ago.
He said: “The squad is getting there. The starting XI is not a strong as that team and the league was harder back then too.
“This squad is the strongest we have had for a long time. We have been able to add in January, which in the past we have not been able to do and then we picked up injuries towards the end of the season and lost our momentum. But now we are very positive and have a good chance.”
Promotion would not be a new experience for Naylor but it would mean that much more for the old boy coming good once more.