Premier League Career: Portsmouth (2004-2005), Stoke City (2008-2012)
Jamaican forward Ricardo Fuller enjoyed a successful spell in the Premier League with Stoke City. After failing to make the grade at Portsmouth, Fuller was one of the leading stars of the early Stoke years in the Premier League under Tony Pulis.
He began his English journey with Crystal Palace in February 2001, signing after impressing Eagles’ management on trial. Unfortunately, he struggled to settle in the capital and with knee problems too, it restricted him to just eight league appearances as Palace narrowly avoided relegation to Division Two. He was released and returned to his homeland with an unpredictable future.
He tried his fortunes in Scotland next, as Hearts signed him for the 2001-2002 season from Jamaican side Tivoli Gardens. He scored eight times in 27 appearances and finished as the club’s joint top scorer for the campaign. Unfortunately for the Jambos’ fans, the Edinburgh club couldn’t afford to sign Fuller on a permanent basis. So, he went back to English football, with Preston North End swooping in to sign Fuller permanently. Arguably, his time with Preston was probably the most prolific of his career. He scored 30 times in two seasons and it would have been far more had it not been for a bad knee ligament injury he sustained in December 2002. In June 2004, Fuller decided it was time to try his luck in the Premier League, so handed in a transfer request.
His persistent knee problems in English football so far meant there were few suitors for Fuller’s services, despite his instincts infront of goal. Only Leeds United and Portsmouth displayed interest and the former had just dropped out of the top-flight. Ricardo failed medicals with both teams but Harry Redknapp maintained an interest and eventually, agreed a fee with Preston to sign the player in August 2004. He scored on his debut against Crystal Palace but his impact was limited. Redknapp left Portsmouth two months later and he fell down the pecking order under Alain Perrin’s stewardship. His goal against Palace was the only one he struck in Portsmouth colours. After another failed medical, this time at Sunderland in the summer of 2005, he eventually moved to Pompey’s bitter south coast rivals Southampton, to reunite with Redknapp who had controversially moved onto St Mary’s after his exit from Fratton Park.
His stay at Southampton was not the greatest. Again, Redknapp left shortly after signing him to incredibly return to Portsmouth. The fans struggled to accept him in their colours because of his Pompey connections and there was a general feel that Fuller’s commitment to the club wasn’t always 100% evident. He went on-loan to Ipswich Town and was eventually moved to Stoke on transfer deadline day in August 2006. Whilst Preston gave Ricardo his best scoring days, Stoke would be his longest and strongest period of his footballing career.
If Southampton fans didn’t enjoy him, Stoke supporters loved him. Fuller scored 26 goals in his first two seasons to help the Potters’ reach the promise land of the Premier League. He won the club’s Goal of the Season award in 2007-2008 for a solo effort against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Despite his popularity, Fuller was no stranger to trouble either. He received two red cards in his debut Stoke season and was also sent off for violent conduct against West Ham United when he slapped his teammate Andy Griffin in the face!
These transgressions apart, Tony Pulis seemed to always get the best out of Fuller. He scored some brilliant individual goals, including efforts against Aston Villa in August 2008 and West Ham United in March 2010 that won the club’s Goal of the Season awards. Fuller also scored Stoke’s first-ever Premier League goal, although this came in a defeat to Bolton Wanderers.
Injury unfortunately meant he missed out on the club’s FA Cup final appearance in 2011 and another red card away at Chelsea a year later didn’t go down well with Pulis. Fuller had stamped on Branislav Ivanovic and the manager called him ‘ridiculous.’ With Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones now at the club as the preferred partnership, Fuller was no longer an automatic pick when fit and Stoke decided to release him at the end of the 2011-2012 campaign.
That would be his final Premier League hurrah. He retired in May 2016 after spells in the Football League with Charlton Athletic, Blackpool, Millwall and Oldham Athletic. In the international spectrum, he played 73 times for Jamaica in a career that spanned an incredible 16 years.
Ricardo Fuller was a tempestuous figure but always could produce magical moments from nowhere and Stoke fans certainly enjoyed his combative and abrasive style of play in their Premier League story.