Last week, we published a piece looking into the recent history and success stories of Jamaican players at Preston.
Daniel Johnson and Jermaine Beckford have flown the flag in recent years, whilst Ricardo Fuller is arguably the biggest success of the lot. However, Claude Davis isn’t far behind.
The dominant centre back joined North End on loan from Portmore United in 2003, just a year after Fuller’s arrival. It took Davis a little while to settle in and start showing his quality, but once he did, he never looked back.
Davis was a key part of Billy Davies’s defence; one of the finest Preston back lines we’ll ever see. Davis joined the likes of Graham Alexander, Youl Mawene, Matt Hill, Tyrone Mears and Callum Davidson in North End’s defensive option, but still managed to stand out.
Davis had everything in his game; he was tall, strong, quick, read the game well, dominated in the air and was comfortable with the ball at his feet. It’s no great surprise that Davis earned a Premier League move in 2006, joining Sheffield United for £3million.
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Davis couldn’t establish himself in the top flight, but he remains one of the finest defenders many Preston fans will have seen in the famous white shirt. Now, the Jamaican ace has opened up on his time at North End.
Preston are running interviews with various Player of the Year award winners on the club’s official website. Earlier this week, the episode with Davis was published, given that he won the award in 2006.
A couple of lines were particularly interesting; the first being that Davis not only still follows the club, but has now gone into coaching, and wants to reach out to North End to offer his help to the youth setup, believing he can help the Lilywhites.
“I’m still following the club. I remember you guys were top of the league, and then you drop off, and I’m like ‘wow, that was a chance. A side of me was like ‘come on, don’t get promoted, not yet, not without me!’, because I’ve just finished my badges. I was waiting to finish my pro licence to reach out, because I’m coaching now to be honest. I’m coaching now, I’m working with younger kids, 18-19-year-old’s, I’m working collegiate kids, helping kids get into college and share my experience with them. At some point in my life, I will try and reach out, because I think I can be an asset to the youth program,” he added.
Davis also talked about the 2005 playoff final defeat at the hands of West Ham United. Bobby Zamora’s goal proved to be the winner for the Hammers in Cardiff, as Preston missed out on the Premier League again.
North End beat West Ham twice in the league that season, but fell short on the big day. Davis has now admitted that the defeat was ‘so embarrassing’ because he can’t understand to this day how the Hammers won.
Davis noted that West Ham had a ten-minute spell in the game and their winning goal was a ‘blooper moment’ for the Preston defence. It just wasn’t to be that day, and it’s clear that Davis believes North End should have gone up that season.
“We beat them at Deepdale as well, so going into that game at Cardiff, there was nothing in my mind that said ‘these guys can beat us’. We had so much confidence going into this game,” said Davis. “To this day, I still don’t know how they beat us. It was so embarrassing. The mere fact that Matt Hill slipped, I slipped, it hit the kid’s knee, trickled past Andy (ed note: Carlo Nash was in goal that day, so we can only assume he meant Carlo!), it was was one of those bloopers moments that will never happen again.”
“The players, the team, the atmosphere, the fans, the coaching staff, everything was built to get us to the Premier League. It was just one of those moments. If you remember the game – I still have the game, I watch it every now and then – West Ham had a ten-minute spell, that was it. Nothing else. We created five opportunities that game and we couldn’t get one in, so sometimes you’ve got to take your hat off and say ‘these days happen’,” he added.