Naylor has inside knowledge
RICHARD Naylor plans to use the inside knowledge he has of Marcus Stewart to halt the Sunderland striker's hot streak of form.The duo were partners in Ipswich Town's promotion season and Naylor played a big part in helping Stewart score 21 goals in the Blues' first season back in the Premiership.
By Derek Davis
RICHARD Naylor plans to use the inside knowledge he has of Marcus Stewart to halt the Sunderland striker's hot streak of form.
The duo were partners in Ipswich Town's promotion season and Naylor played a big part in helping Stewart score 21 goals in the Blues' first season back in the Premiership.
Now a centre back, Naylor will be charged with halting Stewart and the rest of the Black Cats' attack.
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The Blues longest-serving player last night said: “I have the utmost respect for Stewie on and off the pitch. He is a really nice lad and great player.
“He did fantastic in helping us to get promotion and then scoring all those goal in the Premiership.
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“I have played against him a few times now and, hopefully, I will do well against him and keep him quiet.
“Stewie is always a danger around the box and has formed a good partnership with Stephen Elliott. He is a footballers' footballer. He is always thinking, getting into good positions and linking play so it is important that we don't allow him that space.”
The Blues defence will have to work out whether Naylor, or new dad Jason De Vos, go with Stewart or leave him to a midfielder when he drops deep, so they can keep their shape.
But Stewart is not the only threat posed by Sunderland. Naylor warned: “Julio Arca has impressed every time we have played them. He is a Premier League player without a doubt.”
The 28-year-old Naylor has missed just one game for Town this season and is confident they will not play as badly as they did at Wolves in the first half, especially given the importance of the clash.
He said: “This game will have a bearing on the rest of the season whichever way it goes. But we can't look too far ahead.
“Wolves was just a bad day at the office and we have to move on. All we are focusing on now is beating Sunderland.
“We don't have two bad games in a row, we have been consistent - even in the Watford and QPR losses there were a lot of positives.”
Naylor has made more than 260 appearances for Town and has experienced the highs and low of the play-offs, so knows what it takes to handle the pressure at this crucial time of the season.
He said: “There is such a big prize at the end that you can't help but get nervous. Everyone suffers with nerves, and I'm no different, but you have to just put it out of your mind and focus.
“The players may be young but they are experienced and all played in the play-offs last year so they are used to it now.
“Things that happened in the past make you what you are today, but you can't look back and say that is what I did, you have to focus on the here and now.”
The Leeds-born player, who graduated through Ipswich Town's youth system, has been promised a testimonial game by the Blues as he enters 10-years of senior service but has yet to hear details of when the game will be played and who the opposition will be.