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Naylor: I'm a proud Yorkshireman and I've got the tattoo to prove it!
Published : 23 Jan 2010 01:04:43
Every footballer has to have a nickname, and Richard Naylor's could hardly be more appropriate. He answers to 'Nayls' around Leeds United's Thorp Arch training complex. As in 'hard as'. It is an abbreviation of his surname, of course, but most opposing forwards who have tangled with him in his 12 months as Leeds captain would dismiss that as purely incidental. As would colleagues from his days at Ipswich, where they had a more creative approach to the obligatory task of inventing sobriquets. Hard man: Richard Naylor (L) lives up to his nickname against Wayne Rooney 'I was Bamm-Bamm down there,' he said. 'I used to put myself about a bit on the training pitch, barge into people and knock them over sometimes. One day, the youth team coach said, 'I went to the pictures the other night to see The Flintstones movie, and they had a little kid called Bamm-Bamm who charged round everywhere, smashing everything in sight. It was you." Needless to say, it stuck.' As Tottenham prepare to see off Leeds in the FA Cup, Sportsmail wonders how the Elland Road heroes of 2001 would have faredSpurs winger Lennon ruled out for three weeks and will miss Leeds tieBeckford to Everton is nowhere near a done deal, says Leeds boss Grayson Little has happened in the meantime to change the perception of the 32-year old from Roundhay. Tykes don't come any tougher, and it would be no easy task finding one any prouder as he prepares to lead his home club into battle in Saturday's intriguing FA Cup fourth-round tie at White Hart Lane. There may be a cosmopolitan blend about Leeds these days, with the Cockney swagger of Jermaine Beckford up front alongside Argentinian Luciano Becchioand Scottish flair on the flanks in the form of Robert Snodgrass. No one could deny, though, that the foundations for their success as Coca-Cola League One leaders and third-round conquerors of Manchester United have been built using local materials. Enlarge Even when he grew disillusioned with Elland Road's youth set-up and headed for Ipswich as a teenager, Naylor's Yorkshire roots went with him. A white rose was tattooed on his arm, on arrival in East Anglia, and the air was filled with the Leeds anthem Marching On Together in the showers after games. 'I was on schoolboy forms at Leeds and part of the team that won the English Schools Trophy for the first time in the club's history,' he said. 'There seemed to be an assumption that we would all go on through the ranks, but no one showed much interest in us as individuals. 'Howard Wilkinson was manager, but he never spoke to me once. I would walk past him or be in the dressing room as a ball boy, but there was never a word. His focus was entirely on the first team. Fair enough, but when I was invited down to Ipswich, I spent an hour in the manager's office, sitting there listening to John Lyall telling me how they did things and how he wanted the team to play. 'They even took my mum and dad down, put them up in a hotel and explained how they intended looking after me. Painful as it was walking out on Leeds, there was only one choice for the good of my career. Enlarge 'First day down there, I found a tattooist and told him I wanted the white rose on my arm. I had left home at 16 and wanted something that would always remind me of where I was from. I am proud to be a Yorkshireman, proud of my home city and club, and I wanted to let people know what I was about. 'I got a bit of stick from the other lads, but they soon got used to it. Especially when I started belting out Marching On Together in the showers. 'Some people sing in the showers, some don't. I do, and I couldn't think of anything better. It was just spontaneous one day, but there were others who also had allegiances to particular teams. Chris Makin was Manchester United daft, but no one doubted his commitment to Ipswich, just as nobody questioned mine. 'I often played through pain or with an injury, and never thought twice about it. I remember, midway through Ipswich's promotion campaign, being told I needed an operation on my knees. I wouldn't have it, because it would have meant being sidelined at a crucial time. 'I carried on, even though I could hardly climb the stairs at home after a game, and we went up via the play-offs. Within a week of the Wembley final, I was in hospital, having surgery on both knees. If you are a defender, you put up with that. It's only a bit of pain. Hard as Nayls: Naylor in action during his time in the Premier League at Ipswich 'Off the pitch, Leeds still meant everything to me. If there was a midweek game at Elland Road, and we weren't playing, I used to drive up with a mate. I'd jump in the car after training and head straight back after the game. The A1 and A14 were murder, and we'd get back at two or three in the morning. I never told the gaffer. I'm not sure what he would have made of it, but some of those games were in the Champions League. I had to be there.' Leading the way: Naylor is a proud Yorkshireman There was no hesitation when Leeds manager Simon Grayson came calling last January. 'It was on loan to begin with, but he made me captain just two games in,' he said. 'It was my first appearance at Elland Road, and I was leading the team out. I can't tell you how proud I was. It was mind-blowing. 'There is a pressure that comes with it, because so many friends and family members are so desperate for Leeds to do well. My mum and dad used to take me to Headingley as a nipper and sit me on the wall at the front. I think dad would have liked me to have become a rugby player, but he's as proud as anyone at how things have turned out. 'It drives you on. I've turned 30, and I know I haven't got that long to achieve what I want to, which is to help Leeds back to the top. That's why no one went over the top at Old Trafford, special though it was. 'There was no hysterical celebration in the dressing room afterwards. I remember sitting there, with a calm sense of satisfaction but feeling the important part was still to come. 'It will be the same at Tottenham. We want to get through, but it would mean even more to secure promotion and be a step nearer returning Leeds to where we belong.' As Tottenham prepare to see off Leeds in the FA Cup, Sportsmail wonders how the Elland Road heroes of 2001 would have faredSpurs winger Lennon ruled out for three weeks and will miss Leeds tieBeckford to Everton is nowhere near a done deal, says Leeds boss Grayson