One of the most colourful characters to play for Preston North End in recent times was flamboyant Jamaica star Ricardo Fuller.
The maverick striker also enjoyed a short, but eventful spell, for North End’s opponents tomorrow – Ipswich Town.
In fact, Fuller played just three times for the Tractor Boys – his loan stint at Portman Road saw him score twice, get sent off once and also included an appearance at Deepdale against his old club!
It was former manager Craig Brown who bought Fuller – aged just 22 at the time – signing him for £500,000 from Jamiacan outfit Tivoli Gardens in the summer of 2002.
The former Scotland manager had obviously spotted the young forward’s potential during a loan spell at SPL side Hearts the previous season.
Fuller made his name at North End, hitting some spectacular strikes.
His goal ratio for the club was excellent – notching 31 times in 63 appearances before he was sold to Portsmouth, who were then in the Premier League and managed by Harry Redknapp, in 2004
Former Evening Post chief football reporter Brian Ellis – who followed the fortunes of North End for a number of years – remembers Fuller as a player of enormous talent.
“He was an absolute master of the ball, “ Ellis said.
“He scored some spectacular goals .
“I just remember that he had a very different style to many other strikers in the Championship.
“He was like a breath of fresh air for Preston.
“The club had been used to having your typical, British centre-forward up front and he was just so different.
“For such a big bloke – he was over 6ft tall – he could twist and turn in tight situations and was so good on the ball.
“He was one of two or three Jamaicans who were brought to the club in the mid-2000s.
“There was Claude Davis and Omar Daley too.
“North End seemed to have good links in those days, whether it was through Craig Brown or Billy Davies.
“When Fuller was at Preston, he was certainly as good as anything in the Championship and was good enough for the Premier League. And of course he ended up playing in the Premier League.”
A bad knee injury curtailed Fuller’s first season with North End after he had scored 12 goals in 21 appearances.
He had his joint operated on by world famous American surgeon Richard Steadman and was back in PNE colours for the start of the following season.
He notched 19 goals in 42 appearances during the 2003/04 campaign, eventually securing a move to Pompey two games into the following season.
Indeed his last match for North End was a 2-1 defeat against Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium.
He managed to score despite being severely jet-lagged after spending the previous week away on international duty.
Ellis added: “He was always jetting off to Jamaica or the States to play for his country.
“I remember once, Preston were playing at Gillingham on a Saturday and Fuller flew in to Heathrow that morning after playing for Jamaica.
“One of the backroom staff motored off to Heathrow to pick him up. He started the match, scored but came off at half-time.
“He was so jet-lagged that he was walking around the pitch half asleep.”
Fuller went on to enjoy a six-year stint with Stoke City in the Premier League – scoring 50 goals in more than 200 appearances.
He later went on to have a spell with Preston’s arch rivals Blackpool.
“He was a really nice guy – so laid back,” said Ellis.
“He would always do an interview with you... sit down in the dressing room and have a chat.”