Sydney FC's Dwight Yorke is the A-League's biggest name. In his first one-on-one interview, he talks about his career, his friendship with fallen Socceroos star Mark Bosnich, and the reasons he has chosen to play in Australia.
Q You've talked a lot about Sydney and how much you like it and how important that was in your decision to come to Australia. What is it about Sydney that you like?
A I just like the whole set-up here, it reminds me of the Caribbean. The people are very laid-back, the weather/climate is good, the people are friendly and after living in England for so long to come out to a place like Sydney is very refreshing. That was part of the decision, not all of it, but part of it.
Q You haven't had a lot to do with Australian football but you have played with a lot of Australian footballers - Mark Bosnich, Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton, Stan Lazaridis. What view have you formed on Australian players?
A You can see the progress in footballers that come from this part of the world. You look at the players that Australia has produced over the past 10 years and I don't see any reason why football shouldn't be up there with the likes of rugby and cricket. You look at the players like Harry Kewell, [Mark] Viduka, Mark Bosnich, Lucas Neill, Brett Emerton, Paul Okon. You can go through the list - these are the people who have made it at the high level and have played at the very top of the premiership.
Q Your first contact with Australians was in the 1991 World Youth Championships (Trinidad and Tobago played Australia in the group stage)?
A Yeah, we scored a goal and it was disallowed. Mark [Bosnich] was in goal, and it sort of stemmed from there.
Q Obviously Mark's had his problems. How do you look upon the situation with Mark?
A It's quite sad in many ways because Mark became a personal friend, obviously there was no secret about that. I was his best man at his wedding, we played a lot of football together, we had a lot of time on and off the pitch together. It was just sad to see how things sort of fell away in the twilight of his career. I see Mark as an outstanding goalkeeper and you look at his record as a goalkeeper, it's phenomenal. It's just a shame to see how things have ended up with Mark and he knows that he's always got a friend to always call upon if ever he needs one.
Q Can he dig himself out of it?
A I also think Mark has got a strong character - you don't know him as well as I do, he's got a strong personality and if there is anybody that I feel that can come out of the situation that he's in … I'm sure Mark can do that.
Q Do you have to be a certain type of person to succeed at Old Trafford? It's such a big stage.
A It is, and when you go there the key is getting off to a good start, because you come under the microscope straight away. Everything is being scrutinised from what you eat, to what you wear, to how you live, to your weight problem - that kind of stuff. It's just an amazing place and if you're not spot on, it can get to you.
Q How do you look back on your time at Manchester United?
A It was phenomenal, really. To go into my first season there and win the treble - to win that in itself, to be the top scorer, to be the player of the year. There was so much to swallow in such a short space of time. I thought, yeah, we'll win it over the five years of the contract that I've signed. To go and and win it [the title] three years on the trot - to win the FA Cup, to win the European Cup, I mean, it's a dream beyond explanation. My time there was sort of short lived [three-and-a-half seasons] because I thought I could probably finish my career there. But unfortunately it wasn't to be. But I've got no qualms about leaving Manchester, as I said nobody can take away my success.
Q It's a hard act to follow once you leave - you've been at Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City, but they're not clubs of the same stature. Was it hard to get your head around playing for smaller clubs again?
A Yeah, you'll find anybody who has been involved at Manchester United finds it a difficult act to follow. For example, the players are not going to be as good. It's just difficult leaving, and any player who has left Man U will tell you the same.
Q How do you feel generally about what the premiership has become?
A Certainly from the money perspective the players would not be complaining at all. From a football point of view it's refreshing, it's something that I know a lot of people look forward to because it's entertainment. The money factor is a big draw. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's Hollywood, but it's got the making of being that way. But I'm sure from a player's point of view all they want to do is go out there and entertain as much as they can and do as best as they can and obviously try and win a championship medal which is important.
Q Is the A-League going to give you enough challenges?
A It's something I'm looking forward to. I'm not expecting the league to be a conclusion (sic) like people are making out. People think Sydney FC will run away with the championship but I'm not expecting it to be like that. Obviously we can make it easier for ourselves if we get off to a good start and keep winning. From a personal point of view I expect to be a leader on the pitch, so when the chips are down my teammates can look to me for some kind of inspiration. I want to use my knowhow, my experience, and try to spur them on as much as possible. I expect teams to come and want to beat us because we're the team everyone will want to beat. We've just got to make sure we're up for it in every single game. If we do that, we've got the players and I'm sure we're capable of beating the other teams in this league.
Q Were your peers, your friends, surprised by your decision to come to Australia?
A There's a lot of people speculating that there's no way back for me from here. I hear what they're saying. But Sydney FC have put together a good package, the chairman [Walter Bugno] has been inspirational in terms of selling Sydney to me, telling me the team is going places. And there's a little carrot there - going to Japan [for the Club World Championships in December], playing in Asian competitions next year, meeting the likes of Liverpool [at the CWC]. It's all good, it's all exciting.
Q What are your ambitions coming to Australia? Your last year in England didn't work out that well, does that mean you have got things to prove?
A I don't believe I have to justify myself to anybody. I've played at the very highest level for a very long time, but I've still got that desire. Australia's given me an opportunity to blossom in this league as much as I can with my personality, with my experience. Hopefully I can do all that with Sydney FC.
Q You are the biggest name in the whole league, not just Sydney. Do you have any issues with that expectation?
A I accept that. Sydney has invested a lot of money in me, and they expect a lot in return. I would be naive not to think that. I'm sure I will be under the microscope … but my shoulders are broad enough to take that on. The most important thing for me right now is to settle into the way of life, to find a home. To me the football is the easy bit. Once I get out there I know what I'm capable of doing. And I'm sure, in time, you guys will understand where I'm coming from.