Saturday, 21 January 2012

Name one thing we have in common with Leeds United...

Three years ago I moved to Yorkshire from East Anglia for work purposes: a move I share with one very special former Ipswich Town player. Can you figure out who?!

Leeds and Ipswich share a lot in their histories: Huge success in the past has brought respect to both teams but the difficult financial times that followed have seen them slip down the league tables in recent decades.

And, in those more recent years, one player is proud to say he has lead them to victory in the Play Off Finals. This player has also captained both sides, whilst for us he became Club Captain during his final season in Suffolk...

Have you figured out who it is yet?!

Richard Naylor is a name that cunjures up one special image in the minds of Town fans.

I think for me this was the moment I knew we were going up...

When Bam Bam came on as a substitute for David Johnson in the Play Off Final in May 2000, he played a massive part in a game that no Town fan will ever forget!

So, as I return to the city where both he and I found our first Yorkshire jobs: I thought I'd take you down memory lane a little with an interview from the man himself.

My chat with Richard was originally published in the Doncaster Rovers matchday programme (RTID) during my work experience with them and I am grateful for the permission to use it on my blog.

Richard, tell us a bit about yourself, you were born in Yorkshire weren’t you?

I was born in Leeds, then I moved to Ipswich Town straight from school when I was 16. I did my apprenticeship in Suffolk and played there for 13 years. Then, I got the opportunity to move back to my home town club, Leeds, a few years ago. I spent two and half years there and really enjoyed it. But when that came to an end I wanted to stay playing in Yorkshire and Doncaster was definitely the best option for me. I was pleased to join Rovers in the summer.

You joined Ipswich at a very young age, was it always your plan to play football?

I signed for Ipswich when I was 14, they’ve got a good scouting network across the country and I used to travel down. It was a really good set up down there and gave me a good football education.

Do you prefer to play as a centre back, as you are now, or as a forward, as you did for a long time at Ipswich ?

I have played as centre back for more than ten years now, but when I was younger I played up front a little and had some success in that position. I broke into the side at Ipswich as a centre forward and played quite a few games for them up front, but I’ve played centre half for a long time and don’t think I’m capable of playing anywhere else now!

Rovers travelled to Ipswich earlier in the season and won, did you enjoy going back there?

I went back with Leeds previously but it’s always nice to go back there, the fans gave me a great reception and it’s nice to see some friendly faces. Obviously the playing staff change when you leave, but the people behind the scenes stay the same most of the time and there’s a lot of really nice people down there.

In 2009 you moved to Leeds United when they were in League One, did that fulfil an ambition for you?

I feel lucky I was able to do that, a lot of people don’t get the chance to play for their home town club and moving back home has been nice for me. I’d lived away for a long time so it was nice for my Mum and Dad that I moved back home and now live locally. You can’t plan these things in football though, you have to go where people want you and I know I’m fortunate to have been able to play for Leeds: for me it was an honour and a privilege.

You were club captain at Ipswich and captain at Leeds too, is that a you enjoy and would you like to do that at Rovers?

I don’t mind really, I conduct my business in the same way whether I’m captain or not. I think when you’re captain you get some added responsibility which can be good and can be bad. It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing in the past but at the moment I’m more than happy just helping out in whatever way I can.

Looking back on your career so far, what would you say has been the highlight?

Gaining promotion with Ipswich to the Premier League was fantastic: I scored at Wembley when we got promoted in the Play Offs and played in the Premier League for them in the next two seasons, which was a fantastic time. Then representing my home town club, being captain for Leeds and helping them to a promotion, the two promotions were definitely the highlight. I played in the UEFA Cup with Ipswich as well, I played against Inter Milan at the San Siro and I look back on those memories fondly.

Your nickname in Ipswich was ‘Bam Bam’ (after Barney Rubble’s son in ‘The Flinstones’), has that followed you up here?

Fortunately not! You tend to pick up nicknames as you go through football but as you get older they get more sensible. I’ve grown out of that one now!

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