Naylor ready to stand up and be counted

TONIGHT is the time when the real men must stand up and be counted as Ipswich face West Ham in the second leg of their Division One play-off semi-final, writes Derek Davis.

TONIGHT is the time when the real men must stand up and be counted as Ipswich face West Ham in the second leg of their Division One play-off semi-final, writes Derek Davis.

At 7.45pm all the talking will be over, all the posturing finished, it is down to business, and time for the true stars to step up to the plate and do the business.

When it comes to tough situations Richard Naylor is your man.

His battles against injury are well documented, his play-off heroics in years gone by are legendary, so once again Naylor is ready to answer the call to arms.

If John McGreal fails to win his fitness fight then Naylor will revert again from striker to central defender, slipping in alongside on- loan Leicester City defender Matt Elliott, and like everything else he takes it in his stride.

He said: “There is no point in worrying about it, as long as I'm playing well and starting games I'm happy.”

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Mentioning the final is banned, experience has shown Naylor that the tough bit is getting there in the first place and although Town take a one-goal lead to Upton Park, there is still a lot to be done.

He said: “The semi-finals do seem to be tougher than finals which I suppose is the same as any cup competition.

“These tend to be more of a dog-fight, whereas the finals you can enjoy a bit more.

“You can relax a bit then because you have at least made a final.

“Tonight will be a tough game and one we really need to be up for.

“I don't feel a lot different from four years ago when we were in the semis against Bolton, although I probably appreciate the whole thing a lot more now.

“There is no point in me thinking about the final or comparing it to Wembley because we are not there yet.”

Town are expecting a bombardment from the Hammers and a cacophony of sound from the Cockneys but the game may follow a different path from Saturday when the Blues bossed the Hammers for the most part.

Naylor said: “It will be different because it is at their place and they will be looking to put as many balls as they can into our area as possible to make it difficult for us.

“They did that at their place on Boxing Day when we beat them there so we have to stand up and be counted again, just as we did then.”

Naylor awoke to a glowing tribute by boss Joe Royle in the EADT yesterday when he praised the flexible Yorkshireman and hinted a summer contract was in the offing.

Naylor said: “It is a big boost for me. You always like to read nice things about yourself. There is no one better than the manager to praise you. It has given me a great lift.

“I have always felt I've got worth to this club and this squad and hopefully I can stay on to carry on proving it.

“The first thing though is this game, getting Ipswich into the Premiership is what it is all about and the rest will take care of itself.

“Getting back into the Premiership means everything to this club, its supporters and the players because that is the place to play.

“This is what we have been striving for all season and we have two games to go to achieve that and we have as good a chance as anyone.”

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