Town skipper defends footballers

With Didier Drogba flicking an obscene gesture and chucking a coin back into Burnley fans, Marlon King and Dean Windass clashing a casino, and David Norris' goal celebration, football's image has taken another battering this week.

Derek Davis

With Didier Drogba flicking an obscene gesture and chucking a coin back into Burnley fans, Marlon King and Dean Windass clashing a casino, and David Norris' goal celebration, football's image has taken another battering this week.

But Ipswich Town's skipper Richard Naylor believes much of the good work footballers do is not given the same recognition as the more negative aspects of their behaviour.

Naylor said: “There is a lot of media interest in what footballers do which wasn't there 20 years ago.

“You have to be whiter than white and unfortunately that is not always the case, just like any profession.

“All we can do is try and emphasise the good things footballer do, and there is a lot of good that footballer do. Sometimes it gets publicised, most often it doesn't because it doesn't sell column inches.

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“We have to take that on board and not worry about it. Most often we do things because we want to, not because we want publicity for it.

“We know though that any minor indiscretion gets magnified and it is everywhere.”

With 12 years as a professional under his belt Naylor knows how he and his colleagues are hero-worshipped and whether they like it or not have an influence on young people's behaviour.

He said: “We do have a role to play and we have to be aware of that.

“As a younger player you may not realise it but as you get older and more experienced you understand and appreciate that side of things a lot more.”

Naylor accepts that the lack of coverage is quite often down to the players' own reluctance to court publicity.

Although he doesn't make a song and dance about it Naylor, and now David Wright, does a tremendous amount of work for the East Anglian Children's Hospice, among other charity work.

Naylor said: “Usually when we get publicity it is the club pushing it.

“The lads don't particularly want to be photographed at a hospital or where because we would be doing it regardless but it is a positive image for the club to balance the negative press.”

Every week the club donate signed shirts, footballs and other memorabilia to the public, who can in turn donate cash to the club's chosen charities which this year include the Suffolk Punch Trust, and the players are often asked to donate kit.

Naylor revealed he has found a sure fire money-spinner: “We are always being asked for different things, signed shirts that sort of thing and we do what we can because we know the difference it can make to a raffle or an auction.

“I usually get one of Pablo's shirts because he seems to be more popular than me nowadays and can make more for a charity.”

Something the players are happy to support with their time is the club's own charity the Community Trust.

Naylor added: “Camilla Haycock and the girls here do a terrific job with the Community Trust and bringing people to the club for different educational purposes and takes football into the community. The players are always happy to support things like that.”

Although struggling Doncaster Rovers are in need of some help the Blues will not be charitable when they visit the Keepmoat Stadium today.

Naylor said: “It will be good to see the stadium and good to play in a new place.

“From reports in the papers up north I'm told by my dad that Doncaster have been playing decent football and have been slightly unlucky not to get better results, a bit like us earlier in the season, so I'm sure it will turn for them too.

“There is not much between top and bottom side and few wins and they will be out of the bottom three.

“It is too early to be writing the off. They area decent passing side as I know from watching them in the play-off final against Leeds. They passed the ball well and kept it well.

“I'm surprised they have been the side struggling.

“You usually find one or two of the promoted sides do well and one struggled and Doncaster have been one that has struggled along with Forest.”

And with that the interview was over and Naylor was off to find some Children In Need initiative to support.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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