Davis delighted with Reggae Boyz reunion

BY IAN BURNETT Sport editor burnetti@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 18, 2012

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THOUGH getting on in years and coupled with the fact that many pundits had written him off as a 'has been', big central defender Claude Davis has expressed delight at being given another chance to don the national colours.

Davis wore the captain's armband in the Reggae Boyz' 3-2 away win over New Zealand's All Whites in their friendly international at the Mt Smart Stadium in on February 29. It was Davis's first national cap in almost three years.

"I'm still hungry for it, and it's been good to be back playing for my country, it's a privilege, not a right," Davis told the Sunday Observer at game's end.

"Unfortunately, I can't come for the next game against Costa Rica (this Wednesday at 8:00 pm at the National Stadium), because I know the gaffer (his English club manager) won't release me because it's not a FIFA date.

"He didn't want to send me here for this game either until Theodore (Whitmore, Jamaica's head coach) said Jamaica want to get me because they needed to see me again, so they (club) allowed me to come. The last thing he said to me was if I come back injured I will never play for him again, but thank God I came though and everything is okay.

"But I'm disappointed because I would love to play next month because I haven't played in Jamaica for ages, but there could be a game sometime later in the year and I would be available, if I'm invited to play again.

"It's always a privilege just putting on that shirt and playing for your country, that's a feeling next to none and I'm always honoured playing for my country," an elated Davis said.

Still, Davis, the man who led Portmore United to the Premier League title in the 2002/03 season before moving to English Championship side Preston North End on an initial loan deal before concluding a permanent deal the following season, was quick to give Whitmore, his former national teammate, all the credit for his return.

"I have to be fair to the gaffer, because I wasn't playing and he said that if I wanted to return to the team I needed to be playing regular football, and not just in the squad."

The 33-year-old spoke briefly of a misunderstanding which led to his absence from last year's Gold Cup quad.

"There was a little mishap the last time when I came down to play at the Gold Cup. There were some stuff going on and I got some calls from some people, which I didn't really appreciate the manner in which the invitation went down. There were some ifs and buts going on if I should come into the team or not, so I took the initiative to go back to England to my family.

"I don't wish to elaborate on it because I don't deal with that part of the football; my job is to go on the pitch and do my country proud, but things went down and I went back to England to my family, but that's behind me now and I'm back."

But with the end of his career drawing closer, Davis is desperate to achieve more from the game, both at the club and international levels.

"There's no limit for me right now because I haven't achieved what I tried to achieve because I haven't won anything in England. I've got individual accomplishments, but I haven't won a major title in England," he fumed.

In the 2005/06 season at Preston, Davis established himself as the mainstay of the defence, helping the club to 24 clean sheets for which he copped the Players' Player and Fans' Player of the Season awards, as Preston North End reached the playoffs yet again.

From Preston he moved to Sheffield United for a club record £3 million, with up to £500,000 to follow based on his appearances for the club.

The following season he moved to Derby County in the Premiership for a similar transfer fee on a four-year deal. However, the club got relegated from the Premiership and Davis was to later reunite with Sheffield United manager Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace on a loan deal.

After he and Crystal Palace failed to agree on terms last season, Davis noted that he received "about five calls from Championship clubs", but according to him, they were "struggling clubs and I have been through it for a few years at struggling clubs trying to keep them up, and though I did keep some teams up, it is not something that I want to be a part of now, just struggling for survival".

"I want a new challenge and I thought stepping down to League Two would be easier. Trust me, it's not, it's worse than playing in the Championship because everybody is trying to get up and Crawley Town (his new team) is a team that is trying to go forward. I met with the owners a month before I signed. It's a team that is on the move. They went to the fifth round of the FA Cup," he revealed.

Davis signed an 18-month deal on a free transfer last September, with a clause for a one-year extension.

Crawley Town are currently in sixth place in the 24-team championship with 59 points from 34 games, behind leaders Swindon Town on 73 from 35 games. Torquay United are in second place on 66 from 36 games.

Davis is hoping to seize this opportunity to lift Crawley Town to the League One Championship this season, though he harbours thoughts of ending his career in North America.

"I'm thinking of going back to America because my wife is American; that's the mindset to finish my career in America, but right now I'm focusing on Crawley, and hopefully we can get promoted and if they do then it would be one of my major achievements in England and I'm really trying my best to help them get promoted," he concluded.

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