Portsmouth skipper Tom Naylor: I'm no centre-half rookie - I was signed as one by Derby

Tom Naylor isn’t a central-defensive rookie, certainly he’s no centre-half greenhorn.

Friday, 20th September 2019, 6:30 am
Tom Naylor is no centre-half newcomer - he once won a move to Derby as one. Picture: Joe Pepler

His career began by serving in the role – and it was a position which earned a dream move from non-league to Championship side Derby.

Even half of his Burton Albion existence, spanning three-and-a-half years and two promotions, consisted of playing at the heart of their defence.

Granted, to the Fratton faithful, the 28-year-old represents a combative midfielder, excelling in a holding remit under Kenny Jackett.

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Similarly, Naylor insists he is comfortable operating as a Pompey centre-half – and certainly is no inexperienced operator.

He said: 'When the gaffer signed me, he wanted a holding midfielder who can sweep up things, which I did last season.

‘Then he told me “There are a few places I want to put you – either centre-half or midfield. If you play centre-half you are going to be brilliant, if you are in midfield you are going to be brilliant as well”.

‘We have a good relationship and once he tells me to go back into midfield, I will change my game plan.

Tom Naylor is no centre-half newcomer - he once won a move to Derby as one. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘I started at centre-half, coming through the Mansfield ranks, and Derby signed me as one, although then played me right-back!

‘At Burton it was probably half and half, between centre midfield and central defence, and I do enjoy both positions.

‘In defence it is not as much running, not as much graft, although you still defend as you would do in the midfield, still work hard.

'It's more about keeping a shape in the back four, following the runners, winning more headers than you would do in midfield. You also get more time on the ball as a centre-half.’

Following a system change to capitalise on Burton’s reduction to 10 men on Tuesday night, from half-time Naylor operated in a back three.

That enabled him to prompt attacks from the back in the last-gasp 2-2 draw.

Naylor added: ‘One of us had to step in to bring the ball out and I did it a few times, but it was tough with two banks of four in front of me.

‘You had to be patient in that situation. We were – and eventually got the equaliser.’