Pair set for pitch battle tonight

FINGERS crossed, weather permitting, and God willing, the long-awaited match-up between blood brothers Ricardo Fuller and Claude Davis will finally go ahead tonight.

By Derek Davis

FINGERS crossed, weather permitting, and God willing, the long-awaited match-up between blood brothers Ricardo Fuller and Claude Davis will finally go ahead tonight.

And if past encounters are anything to go by, then fireworks and possibly red cards can be expected.

The two Reggae Boyz have not met in top-class football since bruising contests in their days as school-kids on the island of Jamaica but after many close calls and false starts, tonight will change all that and friendship will fly out the window.

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On-loan Southampton striker Fuller would have missed the game 10 days ago due to a suspension, while Davis was suspended when the Saints played at Deepdale earlier in the season, but now both are in line to play in the tonight's rearranged game.

The two are amazingly close and Davis is almost an adopted son to the Fuller family. They call each other almost every day and see each other whenever they can.

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But once they cross the white line a red mist descends and when they clashed for their respective Jamaican clubs - Davis was with Portmore United and Fuller with Tivoli Gardens - the fists would fly.

Now powerhouse defender Davis has warned the same thing could happen again.

Davis said last night: “Ricardo and I are like brothers. We have known each since we were born, our mothers are close friends and we still talk all the time.

“But once we get on the pitch the friendship goes. We played against each other in Kingston and in almost every game one or both of us would get sent off.

“He would be trying to get past me and I wouldn't let him and there would be a fight.

“At 7.45pm he is trying to take my bread and butter away from me and I am trying to do the same to him and neither will let it happen.

“But whatever happens what goes on the pitch, stays on the pitch, and it never affects our friendship off it. I have the utmost respect for Ricardo as a footballer and as person. He is a skilful forward who is quick and can score goals and we have missed him since he left.

“To be honest we could do with him now.”

Fuller appears more laid back about the meeting but insists he always got the upper hand in those Caribbean clashes.

Fuller said: “As soon as he heard I was suspended for the first game Claude called me and said everything happens for a wise purpose and we are destined not to play each other.

“Maybe it is just meant to be that way and we won't fight it.

“We played against each other a lot when we were in Jamaica, at high school and then at club level, and I always managed to beat him.

“He was looking forward to this game because he felt this could be the one time he would get the better of me but that is not going to happen.

“Now we get the chance to finally meet. We are the best of friends but we won't be friends at all during the game. The friendship will be resumed after the game and I will have got the better of him.”

Davis joked that Fuller had got booked on purpose so they didn't have to meet and insists he always go the better of their meetings as youngsters and in training during international duty.

Fuller also speaks affectionately about Preston, the club he joined from Hearts before moving to the Premiership with Portsmouth. He holds the manager and players in high regard.

He said: “I can remember when David Nugent came from the lower level and he has improved immensely. He is a finisher and someone we will have to be aware of.

“Preston have some good players throughout the team.

“Billy Davies is a great motivator and a great coach. He has some class coaching techniques but most of all he likes to see players with a smile on their face.

“He knows that a player who goes into a game happy and relaxed will play better.

“I'm not surprised he has done so well so quickly by getting Preston into the play-offs last season and in the top six again now.

“When I was at Hearts Billy was at Motherwell and he had them playing good football so it is no surprise now that he is gaffer at Preston that he has got them playing so well.”

The 26-year-old enjoyed his couple of years in the north-west and already has a similar feeling about Ipswich.

He said: “I loved it at Preston. When I was there I had three years straight through injury-free, really fit and in fine form.

“I had just come from Hearts where I had scored 10 goals in 22 games and the guys at Preston made it really easy for me. They are still really nice guys and all those things helped me settle and do well.

“The city is small but really nice and I enjoyed it there because it is not too big, so it is relaxing and comfortable.

“I have the same feeling about coming here to Ipswich. The players remind me of being at Preston and the way Ipswich play football and no doubt the town will grow on me on time too.”

Fuller believes his new club Ipswich can exploit a stutter by his old club Preston.

While the Blues are enjoying a purple patch with just one loss in 10 games, Billy Davies' side have lost two games after being on a 25-game unbeaten sequence and have failed to score in four of their past five matches.

Fuller, who scored 31 goals in 63 games for the Lilywhites, feels psychologically Town may have the edge

He said: “When you have a good run and then it comes to an end anything can then happen.

“Remember when Arsenal went on that amazing run and didn't lose for 50-odd games but then lost to Manchester United and went on a slide.

“Preston have lost to Middlesbrough and Reading so you never know how that will affect them now.

“The one thing you can be sure about is that Preston will play very good football. They love to pass, just like Ipswich and they create a lot of goals.”

After making his debut against Leicester City, Fuller is looking to get his loan spell with Town fully under way tonight and has games against Crystal Palace and Hull City to come before having to return to St Mary's - unless a deal is struck keeping him at Portman Road until the end of the season.

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