Howard Walker, Staff Reporter
Claude Davis ... relishing life in England's top-flight league with Sheffield United. - file
THE TOWERING figure of Claude Davis had just finished his first training session with the Reggae Boyz. He cooled down, then headed towards his black Mitsubishi Montero Sport SUV, when he was flocked by at least 14 youngsters, all wanting to meet him for some reason or the other.
Unlike most superstars, he greeted everyone and listened to what they had to say. The Boys' Town fans are very knowledgeable fans and the manner in which they warmed toward him suggested he is the 'real big man' on the team.
The Gleaner had a torrid time getting an interview with the player plying his trade in the English Premier League because he was engulfed by the curious adoring fans.
Looking at the powerfully-built Davis, he is the epitome of hard training, as muscles ripple over every inch of his body.
How are things in the Premier League, The Gleaner inquired? "It's all good. It started a bit shaky because I picked up an injury and I had to do a surgery, but it's all good now," Davis said.
He was referring to the knee cartilage injury he suffered in a preseason friendly against Notts County on August 1.
A bit rusty
"I need to get some fitness and sharpness back. I'm still a bit rusty but you have to make the most of it when you are hungry, you can't sit down and expect things to come to you, you have to get up and work for it. I'm still feeling a bit of pain, but it comes with the game, innit," he said in true English slang.
Davis helped Portmore United to the Wray and Nephew National Premier League title in 2002/03, before moving on to Preston North End in the English Championship, which is the second division.
The strong, aggressive defender who is strong in the air, established himself as the mainstay of the Preston defence, contributing to 24 clean sheets and swept the board at the club's Player of the Year awards, named both the Players' Player and fans' Player of the Season.
The 27-year-old central defender appeared 94 times for Preston, scoring four goals before becoming newly-promoted Sheffield United's record signing this season for £2.5 million for four years, with up to £500,000 to follow based on his appearances.
He was long considered the best defender outside of the Premier
League by most football experts in England. But Davis remained humble.
Said Davis: "That doesn't mean that I am the best player on the team; I would say the hungriest defender. I am from Jamaica and my family is poor. I am hungry so I have to work for what I want. I go out every day and put my heart in it. It makes no sense you do something you love without putting your heart in it. And, fortunately, I get paid for something I love. It's just hard work.
"Right now, I am not just in the English League for one season. I want to be there for five, six, seven years. I don't expect to just turn up and get that. I have to play hard for it because I am hungry," he reiterated.
"I have to think about my family, I play with my family on my shoulders. I have to work for what I want," he said.
With the recent booing of the Jamaican players during the Digicel Caribbean Cup, Davis is one player who is on the right side of his club fans.
"To be honest, the fans love me already. My first game we won 1-0, the second we lost 3-0 and the first home game I played, we won 2-1 against Middlesborough. The fans love me, it's like I am back at Preston. They accepted me from the day I came there," said Davis.
The hard-tackling Davis, who has 47 caps for Jamaica and two goals, is a stickler for hard training is enjoying the hard, physical nature of the English training and he is coping quite well.
"In England you train the way you play. When you train you must get tired after the first 45 minutes. So far so good. The Premiership is not just skill, it's hard work. When you think about players, black players are the most talented but at the end of the day you must have hard work and determination," he noted.