By Rob Atkinson
Leeds United will be linked with many new signings this summer, and the squad is
definitely in need of a major tweak or three. Or four, possibly five. But it may well be that, for the medium and longer term good of our club, we've already secured our most valuable signature of this or many other summers. Take a bow, Richard Naylor - who will now remain as the Leeds United U-18 Coach, charged with overseeing the development of youth players who will hopefully contribute to first team success in the not-too-distant future.
Fresh from the triumphs of last season, when his youngsters won their League and performed brilliantly in defeat at Anfield in the FA Youth Cup, Naylor has taken to this role like a duck to water. With his input, the famed Leeds United Academy production line seems to be in the rudest health it's enjoyed for quite some time. Naylor only quit as a player last summer and has still to go through the formal necessities of obtaining the various coaching badges he will need to carve out a career in management. But all the badges in the world are no substitute for natural ability and a way with young people that nurtures progress and success. It is this intangible quality which seems to mark out Naylor as a potential coach to watch out for.
It is to be hoped that Naylor will make a big impact on the coaching and managerial side of the game - given his early achievements there's little reason to doubt he will - and obviously everyone with a love for Leeds United will be desperate for Big Nayls to make his mark with his home town team. Manager Brian McDermott is in no doubt that Leeds have got a winner in Naylor. "If you look at the history of the Academy at Leeds they have produced some fantastic players and I think we have got a fantastic Academy," said Brian. "Getting Richard signed up was very important to us, he is a Leeds man and he is a young coach. I'm sure he is going to be doing his badges and working with the younger players, we are really pleased. Richard enjoys coming to work, that is one of the things you try to create at any football club. I certainly wouldn't want to come to a place where you don't have a bit of fun and you don't enjoy what you do."
Encouraging stuff, and music to the ears of anyone who believes the long-term good of the club is best served by excellence in the Academy - and an Academy is only as good as its coaches, whatever the talent that might be available in the youth ranks. Naylor has made an excellent start to his coaching career, and appears to have a thorough understanding of the demands of his job. Perhaps this is because, although he played most of his career as a central defender, he was a striker at Ipswich until the age of 25. He therefore has top-level knowledge of radically different ways of playing; looking forward as a defender after previously operating with his back to goal as a striker. This professional experience in two very dissimilar roles will maybe have given him a more complete and all-round appreciation of the game as a whole, something his young charges could well benefit from as they develop.
All the best for the future with Leeds, Nayls - may your association with your beloved United be a long, happy and successful one.