Versatile Naylor hoping for new deal

RICHARD Naylor is fast establishing himself as a dual purpose player who can do an effective job as a striker or in central defence.

RICHARD Naylor is fast establishing himself as a dual purpose player who can do an effective job as a striker or in central defence, writes Tony Garnett.

The 26-year-old hopes that his versatility will earn him a fresh contract with Ipswich Town when his present deal ends in the summer.

Ipswich will be forced to reduce their wage bill dramatically for next season, but Naylor is keen to stay at Portman Road, where he started his career as a trainee in 1995.

“I am only too happy to play anywhere the gaffer needs me. Maybe the fact that I have become dual purpose will work in my favour,” said Naylor, who has impressed alongside Thomas Gaardsoe in the last two away matches at Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday.

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“In attack you are judged on scoring goals while at the back the pressure is on not to make mistakes.

“Tony Mowbray has been helping me improve my defensive heading. He was one of the best in the business and it is good to be able to learn from him.

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“At Hillsborough on Saturday I was up against two big physical lads, Shefki Kuqi and Lee Bradbury.

“Reading have a quick lad in Nicky Forster which will give me a different examination.

“Perhaps I might have another 10 years as a player so being able to turn out at the back might be useful. It was the manager who suggested the switch and I was only too happy to go along with the idea.

“I think my greatest strengths are my pace, my heading and my desire to win which I hope becomes infectious. There is room for plenty of improvement as I have only just started playing in defence. I am working hard on reading the game better.”

In an ideal world Naylor would have been able to play alongside one of Town's more experienced central defenders like John McGreal or Mark Venus while he comes to terms with his testing new role.

McGreal's recovery, though, is taking longer than first expected. He has seen a specialist about his back and his problems are now muscular rather than orthopaedic.

Town manager Joe Royle said of McGreal: “He was most influential for us when he played, in fact he was outstanding. We have missed him for too many games.”

But for McGreal's misfortune there might have been no thought of introducing Naylor to a fresh role.

Finidi George is another player who is still in the wars with injury. He has had his sore hip scanned but has made only a little progress.

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