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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 28, 2006

Dwight keen to make an impression

In 2005 when Dwight Yorke made the move down under to play for Sydney FC in Australia's new A-League, few would have begrudged the former Manchester United and Aston Villa striker a little more time in limelight.

A pioneer for the new league, the 35-year-old spurned the overtures of the lucrative middle-east to continue his career with Sydney, and quickly became a fans' favourite at his new club, as well as the biggest name in Australian soccer.

Boasting a unique striking pedigree, Yorke found a new lease of life as a midfielder for Sydney, using his vision and experience to knit the team's play together, while not having to rely on his ageing legs to lead the line. Although he was able to weigh in with seven goals in his first season at the club.

'I've had my fun as a striker,' he says. 'I've scored lots of goals week in and week out, but at this point of my career I'm not going to be doing that again.'

'It was a position I thought I could always play, coming back and linking up with midfield so it wasn't such a difficult job playing in that role when the coach asked me to,' he adds.

Just having a player of Yorke's calibre was enough to give the A-League a much-needed boost of publicity and, as his salary fell outside the Australian wage cap, Yorke was branded Sydney's 'marquee' player.

'I really enjoyed being the star player, and I relished having people there to see me', he says. 'Being in Sydney, the biggest city in Australia, everyone wanted to beat us so we were like Man Utd, it was challenging and great to be in that position.'

After a successful World Cup in Germany, Yorke found that the profile of Australian soccer rocketed, buoyed by his own success with his native Trinidad and Tobago as well as the Socceroos own showing.

'It was a dream come true for me,' he says. 'At that particular time I thought I'd lost the opportunity to take my country to the World Cup as I was in the twilight of my career. Leading the team out was the icing on the cake for me and we were pretty happy with the progress the team showed in the competition.'

Indeed, Trinidad and Tobago were one of the surprise packages of the tournament, holding Sweden to a 0-0 draw, although they didn't qualify; while the Australian national side also impressed- reaching the knockout stages, only to be denied by a last-minute penalty from eventual winners Italy.

'Once the Socceroos qualified for the World Cup, it became easier for the A-League because people were more soccer-orientated,' Yorke says. 'The supporters all got behind the teams and the first year was a great success, mostly down to the success of the World Cup.'

Not only did the Socceroos exceed all expectations in their march to the knockout stages, they also raised the profile of the domestic league, which has since seen other big-name players like Benito Carbone and Brazil legend Romario join the ranks- albeit with limited success.

England legend Terry Butcher has also made the move down under to cut his managerial teeth, while ex-players Stan Collymore and Gianfranco Zola have also recently been linked with stints in the league.

'The A-league was something new to the people of Australia and the federation behind it,' Yorke says. 'They didn't quite know how people were going to react when it first started off, but the support has been great.

'To make any league successful you have to take risks,' he asserts. 'Maybe they need to bring in three marquee players instead of one, to get more people into the ground.

'Attracting quality players, who are coming to the end of their careers and still want to play in a good league, they have to have the imagination that they can be a big league. With the right organisation behind them I'm sure the A-League will be even more of a success.'

Having moved from the sun and sand of Sydney at the end of the August transfer window, Yorke has settled in colder climes, and has now been re-united with old United team-mate Roy Keane at Sunderland.

'There is one reason and one reason only,' Yorke says of his decision to head back to England. 'It was because of Roy Keane, there's nothing else to it.'

Together for four years at Old Trafford, which included the treble in Yorke's first season with the club in 1999 and three league titles, the Trinidad star has the utmost respect for his new manager.

'His record as a player has been phenomenonal,' he says. 'Knowing Roy Keane as a person and knowing what he will bring to the table as a manager was the pure and simple reason I'm here now.'

But surely playing under your former captain has to be strange?

'It's definitely weird that he's the boss and I'm the player here,' he laughs. 'It's going to take a bit of time for me to get used to it, but he's doing well. He's trying to find his feet as the job is pretty new and given time I'm sure he'll do a great job at the club.'

With promotion top of the priority list for a club only out of the top flight of English football for a year, Yorke is keen to make yet another impression on a league he is well at ease in.

'Getting to the Premiership is the ultimate ambition for any footballer,' he says. 'Having played in the top league for 15 years as a player, to end my career playing there again would be a great achievement.

'We're not going to get carried away though, and there's still a lot of work to be done, but if there's anyone who can do the job it's Roy.'

And Keane has already had an influence on the Trinidad and Tobago star's development both as a player and as a person. We've already seen Yorke the striker and now Yorke the midfielder; who's to say that next on the cards won't be Yorke the manager.

'I always thought I was going to just walk away from the game and disappear somewhere in the Caribbean,' he says. 'But since I've come back to England and spoken to Roy, he's persuaded me to get my coaching badges, so I will never say 'never' to being a manager.

'Right now I'm focussed on doing the best for Sunderland, but in the future I can see myself involved in management. I love the game too much to leave.'


  • Any comments? Email Jon Carter