Naylor: We'll do it for Joe

IPSWICH star Richard Naylor wants to repay boss Joe Royle for resurrecting his career.Naylor, 27, a likely starter in attack in tomorrow's all-important home clash with Cardiff, believes he owes Royle a huge debt of gratitude.

IPSWICH star Richard Naylor wants to repay boss Joe Royle for resurrecting his career.

Naylor, 27, a likely starter in attack in tomorrow's all-important home clash with Cardiff, believes he owes Royle a huge debt of gratitude.

He said: "I was on my way out under the previous gaffer and Joe has been fantastic for me. He really has resurrected my career.

"He must take massive credit for the way the club is competing for a play-off place. He has had to shed players because of the financial situation, yet we are still up there having a real go at getting back to the Premiership.

"You only have to look at what has happened at other clubs to appreciate what Joe has done here. Look at Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday, who have gone down a level, and Derby have only just survived."

Naylor, a scorer in the Wembley play-off success of 2000, is one of eight senior stars whose present contracts are about to expire.

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He agreed he is playing for his future and added: "It's not much fun being in the situation I'm in. You just have to hope that things turn out for the best.

"Overall, I feel I've done well this season. I hope it's enough to earn another deal. It's my first full season as a centre-half, yet here I am in contention as a centre-forward again.

"Until I broke my toe in March I had played in the majority of games. When Matt Elliott came in the back four became more settled and there wasn't an opportunity to get in.

"But I'm lucky that I have another string to my bow, or I would just be twiddling my thumbs at the moment. I'd love to start every game at centre-half, but at least being recognised as a striker has kept me playing, or at least ticking over."

Naylor's career was in the doldrums a few years ago, when he even feared it might be over because of problems in both his knees. He sports tell-tale scars that confirm the operations he was forced to undergo, while he remembers only too well how the searing pain made it a struggle to even crawl up the stairs at his Ipswich home.

Thankfully those dark days are in the past and Naylor added: "I come in half an hour early for training to get properly warmed up. I had problems with the tendons under my patella, so I make sure I get them mobilised.

"I have been able to play pain-free for some time now and I think I've proved my worth to the club."

Supporters tagged him Psycho because of his 100 per cent commitment, while his own team-mates christened him Bamm-Bamm after the reckless, accident-prone kid in The Flintstones.

Naylor laughed: "Hopefully there's more to me than that. I doubt if you would play for eight or nine years for a club like Ipswich, with their reputation for playing football, if you didn't have something.

"At this club the ball's on the ground a lot more than it is in the air, but I won't deny that I can cope with the physical side of the game. Every team needs players like that."

Naylor enjoyed the fact that Royle ordered preparations for tomorrow's game should follow the usual routine.

He said: "As a footballer you should approach every game in the same way. If you don't, you can be on the slippery slope. If you vary it you only put more pressure on yourself.

"Basically, I try not to worry about it. I suffer with nerves like everyone else and I do my best to relax, but it can affect your performance if you dwell too long on the enormity of the game."

Ipswich have named an 18-strong squad, with Chris Bart-Williams set to train today after playing twice inside 48 hours for the reserves this week.

However, Royle is likely to stick with the side that earned a precious point at Bramall Lane, with the exception of Naylor starting in place of teenager Dean Bowditch.

IPSWICH: Davis, Wilnis, Elliott, McGreal, Richards, Wright, Miller, Magilton, Westlake, Bent, Naylor, Bowditch, Reuser, Diallo, Santos, Bart-Williams, Kuqi and Price.

CARDIFF: Margetson, Croft, Gabbidon, Collins, Vidmar, Bullock, Boland, Langley, Robinson, Campbell, Earnshaw, Lee, Gordon, Fleetwood, Parry, Whalley, Barker and Alexander.

Referee: Richard Beeby (Northampton).

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