The Monday Profile: Claude Davis

Posted by on Dec 12, 2011 in The Monday Profile | No Comments
The Monday Profile: Claude Davis
The furore surrounding Lyon’s astounding 7-1 win in Zagreb last week puts one in mind of the perhaps the most anomalous sequence of results in this season’s Football League. In September, warmly tipped Crawley Town followed up a 6-0 hiding at Morecambe with a 3-0 home battering by Swindon. Having begun existence in the League well, these results were far from expectedand everything that has happened since makes them seem still more unusual.For the Sussex club have etched up 14 subsequent matches without defeat in Cup and League, ascending to top place after their impressive 3-0 win over Burton Albion on Saturday was mirrored by Southend’s tumble at Cheltenham. Matt Tubbs is very much among the goals and Crawley have a steely look – tough defender Kyle McFadzean has marshalled a defence that looks mean spirited indeed.The opening goal against the Brewers was netted by Claude Davis – now a veteran of English football after Craig Brown spotted him playing for the Jamaica national team in a friendly against Birmingham City in 2003; the defender having led Portmore United to the national title that year. Having now played 62 times for his country, he and his cohorts have been labelled as ‘The Reggae Toyz’ at home, a reflection of their nearly men status. But, having produced some competitive results in friendlies, the yellow shirted squad that charmed us in France 1998 can look forward to a CONCACAF World Cup qualifying group involving Guatemala, minnows Antigua and an America in decline with cautious optimism – the likes of Marvin Elliott, Donovan Ricketts and Luton Shelton (now at Turkey’s up and coming Karabükspor) form the backbone of a side that can make their mark.

Davis excelled at Preston despite tough competition in the centre back position from Chris Lucketti and Youl Mawene, scooping a player of the year award in 2005-6 and featuring in successive play off campaigns – what would Peter Ridsdale’s beleaguered and financial stricken club do for those days now?

A rock solid 2005-6 season helped Davis, a native of Kingston’s Rae Town neighbourhood, catch the eye of Neil Warnock – everyone’s favourite snarler bringing him to Bramall Lane at the onset of a new Premier League season. Injury meant the Jamaican had to start the season on the sidelines and he was to turn out only 22 times for the Blades, playing the last eleven minutes on the apocalyptic final afternoon at home to Wigan.

Not always the most financially prudent of clubs, United nonetheless recovered the £3 million fee they had disbursed for Davis as he joined the unexpectedly promoted Derby County just a year after crossing the threshold of the Lane. Unfortunately, the genesis of the now popular chant directed at Rams fans of ‘worst team in his-tory’ can be traced back to this cataclysmic season. On departing Pride Park for Crystal Palace with two years of his contract remaining, Davis was dubbed the club’s worst ever major signing by local journalist Gerald Mortimer and if the sheer strength of the Premier league in a season where its top two clubs battled it out in the Champions League final does provide an excuse, it was certainly an unhappy time.

There was also a darker side to the late noughties for Davis – an incident in training that saw Ade Akinbiyi state ‘I’m not saying he did or didn’t pull out a knife’ blighted his time in Sheffield, although Warnock, absent on the day the incident was alleged to have occurred described the rumours as ‘rubbish’. Then, the Jamaican was banned for 3 games at Palace for a challenge on Cardiff’s Roger Johnson that Dave Jones described as ‘scandalous’. That Davis himself admits in an interview dating back to his time at Deepdale that ‘I like to over see play and also be smacking people about sometimes’ does not provide thorough evidence for the defence.

But the man who, like 10CC, doesn’t like cricket, is surely a real capture for Crawley. The aggressive streak he readily admits to has already served the Red Devils well in recent weeks. Hard as nails he may be, but he’s also lean and quick for a 32 year old and surely capable of playing a level higher. Those pre-season predictions for Steve Evans’ merry band are looking very accurate indeed now.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

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