Dwight Yorke

Dwight Yorke believes his claret and blue career sky-rocketed under Brian Little because the manager told him: "You're my No.10 - go and express yourself."

Yorke says he enjoyed his time under all his other managers - Graham Taylor, Dr Jo Venglos, Big Ron Atkinson and John Gregory - but insists that Little filled him with masses and masses of confidence, making him feel "unstoppable."

And it was under Little that Yorke enjoyed his best-ever moment at Villa - the 1996 League Cup final victory over Leeds United, a performance he describes as "perfect."

He said: "My career sky-rocketed to another level under Brian.

"I worked under Graham Taylor, Dr Jo, Big Ron and John Gregory. I learnt a lot from these managers.

"But I was coming up to about 24-years-old under Brian and I knew good times were around the corner. I felt it.

"Brian came in, saw something in me and gave me the impetus to go and play well.

"He made it known to everyone that I was his main man.

He said: "That No.10 shirt is yours, go and play and express yourself.' He told me I had everything as a player that he was looking for.

"I was confident anyway but that gave me the belief to show a good level of consistency in my game week after week. I knew I was going to play every week. I went to another level.

"There was a lot of hard work involved. It wasn't just a case of turn up and entertain. I put the hard graft in at Bodymoor too.

"I have to mention people like Jim Walker and the other lads in the backroom staff too. They inspired me. They told me to kick on.

"Those words of encouragement from everyone at the club gave me the impetus to reach the very top of my game. For two or three years, my career at Villa blossomed.

"It all culminated in the League Cup win. That was unbelievable. The feeling of winning a major competition for the first time was truly incredible.

"That was my first time playing at Wembley. Look at the manner of the performance and the manner of the victory too. We were playing against very good players at Leeds. We played so, so well. That was just a complete performance.

"To score at the end and hear the crowd singing my name Dwight Yorke, Dwight Yorke to the tune of New York, New York - wow, what a feeling. That was the ultimate. That was the best experience. It doesn't come much better than that!

"It was very different to the feeling I had two years before when I missed out under Big Ron in the 1994 final against Man Utd.

"That was a down period for me. But it was a learning curve too. I thought - and Big Ron said - if the club ever get there again, be part of it.

"I saw everyone enjoying themselves that day and I was absolutely gutted I didn't play. I was frustrated not to be in the 11, never mind the 16.

"But I used the feeling to inspire me. And it all ended beautifully in the next major final."

Yorke was at his flamboyant best in the dressing room after the 1996 game, downing champagne and singing his signature tune as the other lads cheered him on - and it was this flair and panache that exemplified his game on the pitch too.

For sheer audacity, who will ever forget his impudent chip from the penalty spot in an FA Cup tie at Sheffield United in 1996? Or the carbon copy against Arsenal's David Seaman at Villa Park a couple of years later.

Certainly not Yorkie!

He added: "They were special moments. I was high on confidence. The fans believed in me. I felt I was unstoppable. Those were the kind of things I used to do.

"Not many players could get away with that at Villa Park. I just felt 'even if I miss this, they know I'm trying to entertain them.'

"That's part of a player's makeup. You want to win football matches, of course. But the fans are paying their hard-earned money to come and be entertained. It should be like going to the theatre!

"Some people might not remember it, but I loved to entertain the fans before the game too.

"I loved to run out late. It wasn't deliberate. But I was always the last man for the warm-up. I used to juggle the ball across the pitch. I was entertaining the fans and showing them I was well up for it. I was geeing the fans up.

"I'd have the fans singing my name. I got a buzz from that and I'd like to think that they got a buzz from it too."