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Playing in Australia, qualifying for the World Cup finals and preparing to face England have rejuvenated the Sydney striker.


DWIGHT Yorke has always loved dancing, a nocturnal pursuit that displeased Alex Ferguson during the striker's lively sojourn at Manchester United. Trinidad's answer to John Travolta was even jiving around his Japanese hotel room at breakfast time the other week. Yorke had just seen the World Cup draw.

News that his team, Trinidad and Tobago, meets England in Nuremberg on June 15 had Yorke performing a jig of delight. "It's a dream come true," smiled Yorke yesterday, the sweat glistening on the brow of Sydney FC's biggest name.

"I have affection for England, learnt my trade there and played there for so many years," added Yorke, who enjoyed good times at Aston Villa and United, if far less impressive spells at Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City.

"I have still got my house in Manchester. I feel Manchester is my home. I couldn't believe the draw! I was dancing around the room! It's the ultimate. I tried to phone a few people in England but didn't get through."

Maybe the thought of Yorke calling to proclaim what the "Soca Warriors" would do to the Three Lions prompted his many English friends to hide behind their answerphones. He even tried to contact an old ally — David Beckham, England's captain.

"He's a very difficult man to track with his mobile number! He keeps changing it. I thought I was bad but he is worse," he said.

"Becks and I go back a long way. We sat next to each other in the dressing room at United. It was pretty cool knowing him and playing alongside him. Great fun. Great memories. He made so many goals for me. It will be great to shake his hand before the game and say, 'May the best team win'.

"But let's get it right here — we are the underdogs. We are a population of 1.2 million. England are giants of football. If we win, it would be the biggest upset of all time. As captain, what I don't want is for us to get embarrassed. We expect England to beat us but it's not going to be an easy ride for them. England tend to have one or two hiccups. All our players should be raring to go. There is no greater incentive than playing England."

Yorke pines after United, for whom he plundered 64 goals in 144 games before Ferguson off-loaded him to Blackburn.

"Who wouldn't miss Old Trafford? But everything comes to an end," he said. "I walked out of Old Trafford with my head held high. I felt I did a great job.

"It was a pity I left a little bit early. I could still have done a job there. I still support the Reds in a big way. They are always going to be part of me.

"People say I have a grudge against Sir Alex Ferguson. I haven't. The best of us players have to leave at some stage, as much as we don't want to. He's the boss, but who would have thought it would happen to Roy Keane of all people?

"Everyone has to leave … including the great man. Sir Alex Ferguson will know when the time is up. If not, the board will know when the time is up or the Glazer family. It's a difficult one because he has done so well for the club. He's a man with enormous dignity.

"When things are not well, as at the minute, everyone tends to make him the scapegoat and say it's time for him to move on but he's still a great manager.

"He still commands respect from the players. There is no one better than him to turn things around. The players have to chip in, as well …"

A passion for the club runs deep inside Yorke. "People from United were very nice to me when I joined Sydney. Everyone from the club wished me well, from the manager down to the kit manager, Albert, who I keep in touch with.

"All the players who have left United have not exactly fallen by the wayside but they have not seemed to enjoy their football as much. You don't enjoy playing with players who are not as talented as at United. At United, it's a passing game. When you join teams who kick and run down the channels, you don't enjoy that too much.

"I went to Birmingham, got messed around, and thought, 'I deserve better than this'. The players who were playing instead of me (Stern John and Jesper Gronkjaer) weren't particularly better than I am. They are not at Birmingham now, so that proves something. I don't mind leaving England, but the way I did wasn't nice."

Clubs in Qatar quickly showed interest. "Even though the Middle East was a greater option in terms of pay, I felt Sydney was something new, something refreshing. I had just had enough of England for a while. I needed a change. People thought I left the Premiership to come out to Sydney just to enjoy the way of life — which is part of it — but I enjoy my football.

"It's beautiful in Sydney. I have a fantastic apartment in Darling Harbour, bang centre of the city, with a view of Sydney Harbour.

"I have a big smile on my face again. I hadn't had that for a couple of years. With Trinidad qualifying, I have an even bigger smile." And then came the draw that made Yorke feel like dancing.