Royle's praise for Naylor

JOE Royle last night hailed 'Mr Ipswich' and hinted that Richard Naylor would be head of the queue when new contracts are handed out in the summer, writes Derek Davis.

JOE Royle last night hailed 'Mr Ipswich' and hinted that Richard Naylor would be head of the queue when new contracts are handed out in the summer, writes Derek Davis.

Naylor is likely to keep his place in the starting line-up when Town visit Upton Park, either as cover for John McGreal, who is struggling with a calf injury, or up front alongside Darren Bent.

The 27-year-old's versatility has been an important feature for Town and he weighed in with a vital assist in Darren Bent's winner against West Ham on Saturday after he hit the woodwork with a shot and the England Under-21 international nodded in the deflected rebound.

Later, when McGreal limped off as a precaution because of a sore calf, Naylor dropped back into central defence with ease.

Royle has been impressed with the ability, willingness and intelligence of the Yorkshireman, who is the club's longest-serving player after graduating from the youth system.

Naylor started the season as a defender and still managed six goals. His last start before Saturday was when he played with a broken toe in March against Walsall.

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Royle said: "While no one at the club has been promised a new contract for next season, I would be astounded if Richard did not get one.

"He showed again on Saturday how important he is in that dual role for us.

"What a man. Talk about Mr Ipswich – he would do anything for this club.

"Our little slump ended when he played along with Matt Elliott on his debut at Walsall and got us out of a jam. I won't forget that. We went from losing three to winning three in a row."

Town will hope McGreal responds to treatment over the next 24 hours and Royle has not given up hope of having the key defender back in time.

He said: "There is a little swelling and you have to say at the moment he is doubtful. We will give him every chance and are hopeful. His partnership with Matt Elliott has been pivotal in our defensive improvement recently."

Whoever plays at the back, Town won't be looking just to hang on to their one-goal advantage.

They have showed all season they are better going forward, failing to score just four times away from home this season and just the once this year, at Stoke at the beginning of March.

Royle said: "I said before the game that the second leg would suit us better and I hope I'm right.

"Our away record is very good, we have lost fewer games away than at home and I hope that is an omen for us. We prefer when teams come on to us."

And while was pleased with the whole team effort, he reserved special praise for the fabulous Ipswich support.

Royle said: "The crowd were magnificent, 10 out of 10. It was probably their best game of the season as well.

"Mind you as a team we had to pick up after the Cardiff game when we were poor which showed the tension of that game. We settled down and played and produced some good football."

n All away tickets for the game at Upton Park, which kicks off at 8pm, have now been sold.

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