Survivor Naylor is still in the frame

WHEN Richard Naylor took his place among the line-up for the pre-season photograph last month only Tony Mowbray would also have been in the picture seven years ago when a youthful Bam Bam stood in between Richard Wright and Chris Swailes.

WHEN Richard Naylor took his place among the line-up for the pre-season photograph last month only Tony Mowbray would also have been in the picture seven years ago when a youthful Bam Bam stood in between Richard Wright and Chris Swailes, writes Derek Davis.

While Mowbray has finished playing and now coaches at Portman Road, Naylor remains a true survivor.

Unwanted by the manager who gave him his debut in a 3-1 win over Sheffield United in September 1996, wracked with pain from knees which have been under the knife so many times it would be easier to put a pair of zips around the joint, and seeing a number of strikers bought to replace him over the years, it is somewhat ironic that Naylor is still at Portman Road.

Not only that but looking likely to be a starter today against Reading as another league campaign gets underway.

Perhaps his determination to succeed is one reason why he went without a real holiday in the summer. Trekking back from Center Parcs to get treatment on his perennial knee problems and working so hard on his fitness, shows Naylor is still not ready to pack it in yet.

There have been times when the memory of scoring at Wembley, playing in Europe, netting in the Premiership and being recognised as one of the fans' favourite players, were almost overshadowed by the constant pain, enough to make him want to pack it in some days, and the rejection he felt when being loaned out to Millwall and Barnsley.

Most Read

“I'm hanging on, they can't get rid of me,” he joked. But he recalls how his future at Portman Road looked very bleak at one point.

He said: “It was a difficult 18 months towards the end of George Burley's reign at the club which was very disappointing, especially as the previous year he had offered me a new contract, so things changed round very quickly.

“But equally it has changed for the better just as quickly.

“The new manager has given me a chance and now he has rewarded me for all my hard work with a new contract and I'm just looking forward to the new season.

“It is a massive season for me and a massive season for the club as well.”

Naylor, who has made 174 appearances for Town, has also been a victim of the sort of familiarity which can affect players coming through the youth ranks.

He admits: “That happens at most clubs. The lads that come through generally get paid less and sometimes neglected a bit. If a manager has bought someone for say, £500,000, then he is going to feel more obliged to play him rather than the lad who has come through the ranks unless they are that much better.

“Fortunately at this club we have had players who are that much better than people who have been bought and that is a fantastic testament to the club and to the Academy staff.”

Rather than being fazed by a new sort of pre-season, Naylor has relished the changes.

He said: “This is my first pre-season with a different manager and a different coach but it is very good. We have worked on things which we needed to bring in to our game so we are used to it now.

“There has been a lot of chopping and changing in the past but now everyone knows what they are doing and we are looking forward to putting it into practice.

“It has been very beneficial to me. Each manager has their own way of doing things and I have enjoyed the way Joe and Willie do things.

“It has gone very well so far and you can tell everyone is optimistic about this season. If we can start keeping some clean sheets from early on and we know we can score goals it will be simple.

“We can score from all over, all we need now is to defend as a team and work hard to get behind the ball. Now everyone knows what their role is within the system.

“There is no great science to football, you score goals and you don't concede.”

Unlike his on-pitch image, where he has earned the tag 'Psycho' by the fans and Bam Bam from the coaching and playing staff for his robust style of play, Naylor is articulate and realistic, not given to making wild predictions.

He doesn't believe the statements made last season where Ipswich were going to go up as champions and score 100 goals in the process, were particularly helpful.

He said: “That put a lot of pressure on the lads really, making statements like that always does.

“This season we are quietly confident, probably with more confidence than in other seasons.

“We go into the season working to a set system. Players have set jobs and we have brought in players to do specific roles within the team. It is definitely looking good.”

And he has identified a couple of teams who will also be challenging strongly for automatic promotion.

He said: “There are quite a few teams in with a shout. You always look at the teams which have come down. West Ham have a good set of players but I think they will still find it difficult. West Brom didn't have to sell players because they cut their cloth accordingly when they got promoted and they have added to the squad so they will be strong and difficult to beat again.

“They have got Thomas which will suit him as he likes to play in the three. He likes to be the one spare in the middle and get the ball and pass but he is not as comfortable in a four where he has to mark people and we have been playing a four so it would have been difficult for him to get in our side.

“So with that, from his point of view, it might be the best move for him.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter