Matt praises visitor McGreal

THE king is dead. Long live the king.John McGreal may be highly-rated, but he is possibly missed less than he might have been by the arrival of Jason De Vos and the emergence of Richard NaylorOne young defender who was helped enormously by McGreal is England Under-21 left-back Matt Richards, who is now benefiting from the Canadian skipper's tutelage.

THE king is dead. Long live the king.

John McGreal may be highly-rated, but he is possibly missed less than he might have been by the arrival of Jason De Vos and the emergence of Richard Naylor

One young defender who was helped enormously by McGreal is England Under-21 left-back Matt Richards, who is now benefiting from the Canadian skipper's tutelage.

Naylor has been successfully converted back to a defender from a striker and will celebrate his 10th season as a professional at Portman Road next season with a testimonial.

Richards said: “Jason and Bam Bam are both terrific players.

“Jason is a real leader on the pitch and talks a lot and Bam Bam is doing really well.

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“Jason has really just come in and taken John's place at the back and has fitted in nicely.”

De Vos arrived on a free after failing to agree a new contract at Wigan, while McGreal left Ipswich for Burnley in similar circumstances.

The Clarets have improved immensely with the arrival of McGreal, and Richards appreciates today is going to be difficult.

He said: “It will be a good test for us and Johnny Mac has tightened things up a lot with them.

“He helped me a lot here and looks to be doing the same there.

“John is a great defender who reads the game well and what he does rubs off on you.

“They have the least amount of goals conceded so we know we will have to work hard to get a result.”

That will be made harder without hamstring victim Darren Bent, and Richards is searching for his first goal of the season if the others fail to provide.

He said: “Darren is one hell of a good striker with his pace and his finish and he will be a miss. But we have other great forwards with Dean Bowditch, Shefki Kuqi and Pablo Counago.

“The 4-3-3 gives me more scope to get forward. There is more space on the wing, which I can use and I like playing that.

“It can cause problems though as when you have four midfielders there is little more protection for you when the opposition attack.

“As a team we cope well either way so it is no problem.”

The unselfish Richards admits he focuses more on defending or creating goals rather than searching for glory.

He said: “Sometimes I don't think about shooting as it is not my priority. I have been thinking about it a bit more this season and I feel I'm not bad at shooting as I strike the ball well.

“I'm capable of hitting free-kicks but we have Jim Magilton and Kevin Horlock for that, so I will leave it to them and concentrate on defending.”

With Kelvin Davis still struggling with the effects of a strained ligament he suffered in the first half on the home draw with Reading, Wales Under-21 keeper Lewis Price makes his first home start in the league.

Bent misses out with a hamstring injury picked up while on international duty with England Under-21s, while Fabian Wilnis completes the third of his three-match ban after being sent off against Plymouth Argyle.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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