Naylor: I'll play anywhere

RICHARD Naylor, the longest serving player at Portman Road, is keen to serve either forward or back.He first joined Ipswich Town as a 17-year-old and next month celebrates his 26th birthday.

By Elvin King

RICHARD Naylor, the longest serving player at Portman Road, is keen to serve either forward or back.

He first joined Ipswich Town as a

17-year-old and next month celebrates his 26th birthday.

Now fully fit after a history of painful knee problems, Naylor earned rave reports for his performance in defence for the reserves against Chelsea on Monday and his recent stint as a striker in the first team coincided with a leap up the First Division table.

Now at a crossroads in his career, Naylor does not mind in which position he plays. "Like every other footballer, I want to play in the first team," he said today. "It is up to the manager in what position that is. I know I can do a job in both positions."

Most Read

Naylor was a defender when first signed by Ipswich, but youth coach Peter Trevivian could see his potential as a front man and turned him into a striker.

Since then he has concentrated on

scoring goals and his record of 24 from 72 starts and 87 substitute appearances stands up well.

The Leeds-born player has made four starts this season and scored one goal – in the 4-2 home win over Watford. He found the net while up for a corner on Monday.

"I came into the team for the Watford First Division game – and Ipswich have not lost since," added Naylor. "I don't think this is a coincidence.

"I came into a struggling side, and one that had been unable to put any sort of run together. This has given me a boost, particularly coming on as a substitute in the win at Leicester when we were a goal behind.

"It was a surprise when I was asked to play at the back in a reserve game before Christmas. I have since played just two matches in defence and am pleased with how that has gone as well.

"I am doing special training and enjoy learning from the club's defensive coaches. I am more than capable of holding down a first team place at the back, and now have two strings to my bow."

Known as Bamm Bamm and also Psycho by fans, Naylor's reputation as a physical player is not always justified. He can more than hold his own, but also possesses a deft touch and a quick brain.

"I wouldn't have stayed in the game this long with just hustle and bustle," said Naylor, who was disappointed when his current run of games came to an end when he was left sitting on the bench at Burnley last Saturday.

A minor autumn operation to clean out a knee has led to Naylor reaching full fitness, and he says that coming close to disaster has heightened his appreciation of being a professional footballer.

"Two years ago injuries looked as though they might end my career," he added. "I am grateful for a second chance and appreciate this football club more than anyone.

"Ipswich Town is a fine club, and I am well aware of that. I came here before George Burley took over as manager, and now that Wayne Brown has moved on I am the longest serving.

"All three Ipswich managers in my time have been different. Joe Royle is the most relaxed and this gets passed on. It is enjoyable working with him."

Reserve team manager Steve McCall reckons Naylor's future will be in defence.

"Richard was magnificent for us in central defence against Chelsea and in the longer term I can see it being his natural position," said McCall.

"He's played there twice in recent weeks against some good quality opposition and has done himself proud. I wouldn't be surprised if the manager was looking at that situation.

"The quality of defending he has shown has been very impressive. It's a good string to Richard's bow. You're a valuable asset if you can play well at both ends of the pitch and he has shown that he can."

Time will tell in which position Naylor's future lies, but the player is confident he make his seniority count at the back or the front.