Naylor predicts stylish encounter

THE first real test of the pre-season for Jim Magilton's Ipswich Town comes today when West Bromwich Albion provide Premiership opposition.Blues veteran Richard Naylor believes it will be a stylish encounter.

Derek Davis

THE first real test of the pre-season for Jim Magilton's Ipswich Town comes today when West Bromwich Albion provide Premiership opposition.

Blues veteran Richard Naylor believes it will be a stylish encounter.

Naylor has remained good friends with former team-mate Tony Mowbray who got the Baggies promoted last season and fancies them to do well again in the top flight.

Naylor said: “West Brom are a fantastic side and they are now a Premier League side. They showed last season what a good combination Mark Venus and Mogga are.

“They have done very well and I hope they do well again this season.

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“It is always good to see ex-Ipswich players do well and they have done that.

“They have signed a lot of good players over the summer so it will be a good side they bring down and big test for us. It will be a good test for us and a gauge for where we are.”

Mowbray was among the galaxy of Town stars who played in Naylor's testimonial and is still a popular figure at Portman Road.

Naylor said: “Tony is one of these people who command respect around the place.

“When he was here he was highly-respected as a player. I have been up to see him in the Midlands and was one of the first to congratulate him when they got promoted.

“I have the utmost respect for him as a person and hopefully he will go on and have even more success as a manager.”

Sidekick mark Venus is another highly thought of and Naylor believes the duo are ideally suited.

He said: “Veno is a great counter to Tony. He is always a person in the dressing room who brought the place to life and you need that sort of person who gets the players bubbling.

“His approach is needed to counter Tony's serious side and it works really well.”

While Mowbray has turned West Brom into crowd-pleasers by using the same principles that Magilton has carried on at Ipswich.

Naylor said: “The gaffer preaches the way we play day in and day out and we get the ball down and play it the right way. We pass it, pass it and pass it and we don't know anything else.

“Last season we were fantastic especially at home we know have to do that more away from home.”

Naylor relishes that type of play and is determined to play his part in Town's promotion scrap this season.

“It is going to be tough. We have signed a few new players and I reckon the gaffer will trim that down as he develops his first team core and I want to be part of that core.

“I have trained with the lads this past few weeks and feel I can be part of that first team squad.

“Jim is starting to get the players he wants and he has a big squad at the moment that will get trimmed down over the next few weeks.

“Time will tell how good this squad is and how far we can go but he has signed some good players and we have a set of good players.”

Naylor has vowed to carry on playing beyond this season.

The Blues longest-serving player took a step nearer a full return with 45 minutes in the 5-0 win at Tiptree last night and is confident he can play a big part in helping Town to promotion this season.

Naylor said: “I have another year but I'm only 31 and if I can't force my way into the team and give the manager a few selection problems.

“After that I can extend that contract even further.”

But Naylor knows he faces a difficult fight with new boys Gareth McAuley and Pim Balkestein offering competition and Tommy Smith also pushing.

Naylor added: “It is going to be tough as we have signed a few new players and I reckon the gaffer will trim that down as he develops his first team core and to want to be part of that core.

“I have trained with the lads these past few weeks and feel I can be part of that first team squad.”

Naylor is being tipped to become the Blues' club captain with the armband handed on a match day basis if he is not involved but the veteran is determined to lead the team as best he can - skipper or not.

Naylor said: “I have been with the club a long time and I feel I represent the club in the right way whether I'm captain or not, it won't change the way I go about my business.

“Obviously it would be a great honour to captain this football club for whoever gets it - there is a lot of pride in that.

“For myself right now my main aim is to get fit and get back in the team and at the moment I'm not quite there but I'm getting there.”

Naylor has been recovering from a neck injury that followed a toe problem.

He said: “I spoke to the specialist a couple of weeks ago and he said build up slowly, play 30, 45, 60 and 90 the season is getting closer but I mustn't rush it. The worse thing I can do is play too much because I will get tired and that will cause problems. I played 45 minutes last night and it went well and I hope to get 60 minutes next week.”