Giant who brought Yorkshire grit to Town

RICHARD Naylor did as much as anybody to give Ipswich Town fans two years of Premier League football at the turn of the century.

Elvin King

RICHARD Naylor did as much as anybody to give Ipswich Town fans two years of Premier League football at the turn of the century.

And with typical Yorkshire grit he overcame a series of setbacks to stamp his name firmly in the record books at Portman Road

He was christened 'Psycho' by Town followers for his no-nonsense approach and his 100% displays soon made him a big favourite with fans.

He did not seek the bright lights - or the big transfer bonuses - but was happy to dedicate his career to serving his chosen club with distinction.

The 31-year-old, who ended his 15-year career with Town when he signed a two-and-a-half year deal with home-town club Leeds United yesterday, came on as a first-half substitute in the 2000 Division One play-off final against Barnsley at Wembley Stadium.

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David Johnson was carrying a knock and had to go off which, in hindsight, was just as well. His partnership with Marcus Stewart up front never gelled, and the arrival of Naylor was just the boost Town needed as they came back to win 4-2 after being a goal adrift early on.

Naylor notched one of the goals and was credited with the man-of-the-match tag, and can be said to have changed the game, and opened a memorable - if brief - return to the spotlight for Ipswich Town.

Known affectionately as Bamm-Bamm from his early days in Suffolk after the Flintstone cartoon character, Naylor came down from Leeds as a defender. But coaches could see that he had an eye for goal, and it was in this position where he made his first impression with Town supporters.

It was not until Joe Royle took over from George Burley that Naylor settled into the defensive role that earned him the majority of his first-team appearances.

From wearing the number 12 shirt previously, he was given the number six on a pre-season tour and became a first-team regular.

But he had already suffered an injury that came close to ending his career. A knee problem led to a number of operations, and it was not until Naylor was told to wear an insert in his boot that he managed to overcome the problem.

Naylor, who married an Ipswich girl, suffered more injury misery in 2007. He suffered a toe problem that took a lengthy while to diagnose and just when he was getting back to full fitness he damaged a disc in his neck during a training session and needed another six months to recover.

This was a delicate process, but Naylor is not the type to give up easily and he was back in action at the start of this season - and, as a tribute to the respect he is held within the Town camp, was named club captain.

Naylor was a regular beside new signing Gareth McAuley for much of the first half of this campaign, but with Alex Bruce, the emergence of Pim Balkestein and the form of Ivan Campo, he was out of the first-team scene when Leeds took him on loan.

He was given a well-deserved testimonial in 2006 and over 10,000 watched his 'big game' at Portman Road with Naylor notching a late equaliser from the spot in a 3-3 draw against a Wembley 2000 XI.

A charming and deep thinking man off the field, Naylor has served Town well and historians will look back and select him as one of the mainstays of Ipswich Town's early 21st century life.

We all wish him well at Elland Road where he will lap up the chance of helping his home-town club regain some of their former glories. They could not have a better man for the job - and Ipswich can consider themselves fortunate to have been served by such a giant for so long.