Claude Davis was a Preston hero, but he failed to really match his Deepdale success elsewhere.
Just a year after Ricardo Fuller’s arrival from Tivoli Gardens, Preston dipped into the Jamaican market again. Craig Brown brought in Fuller’s international teammate Davis from Portmore United, initially on loan.
Davis initially found it difficult to break into the Preston side, but once he got his chance, he never looked back. Davis turned his move permanent in 2004, and was named North End’s Player of the Year just over two years later.
Davis was dominant at Preston. He was superb in the air, quick across the ground and so, so strong. Whilst Youl Mawene was seen as a rather elegant centre back, Davis was uncompromising, forming the ideal partnership.
The major disappointment is that Davis wasn’t able to play in the Premier League with North End. He was part of two playoff teams at Preston, but those campaigns ended in heartbreak at the hands of West Ham United and then Leeds United.
Davis did end up having a Premier League career. He left North End for £3.5million in the summer of 2006, joining Sheffield United, and whilst they were relegated at the first time of asking, he made an immediate return to the top flight by joining Derby County in 2007, reuniting with Billy Davies in the process.
Sadly, Davis was a flop at Derby. He couldn’t replicate his Preston displays under Davies, and just last year, he was named by Four Four Two as the 14th worst player to ever play in the Premier League.
Davis spent just two years with the Rams before moving on to Crystal Palace in 2009. Spells with Crawley Town and Rotherham United followed, meaning he has the remarkable note of having played for Davies, Neil Warnock and Steve Evans at multiple clubs.
It’s clear that Preston is the club closest to Davis’s heart though. That was made obvious in his interview with PNE Player, in which Davis explained that his love for North End got him into a bit of bother at Derby.
Before facing Preston with Derby in 2008, Davis claims he was asked by Derby fans to answer whether he would rather be playing for Preston or Derby. Davis answered very honestly, telling them that he would rather be playing for North End as he loves Preston.
Davis puts everything in his career down to Preston’s influence, and whilst he understands the anger from the Derby fans at the time, he wishes he had been at Preston all along.
“At Derby, we played Preston in a cup game, and we lost to Preston,” said Davis. “I remember the Derby fans booing me, because before they asked me if I had a choice to play for Preston or Derby, who would it be? I said Preston, and the fans hate me for that. I’m a truthful guy, you ask me a question, if you don’t want to know the answer, you shouldn’t ask me the question. They asked me the question, I said I love Preston. Everything that I have achieved, it is because of what Preston coaches, fans and players did for me. If I had a choice, I would still be at Preston – I said that to them. The fans booed me for that, but hey, it was only one game – next game, I was man of the match, but I understand,” he added.