Sydney go into tomorrow's first leg of their major semi-final in buoyant mood. The return to form of skipper Dwight Yorke has been a key. He spoke to Michael Cockerill.
Q I PRESUME you haven't been involved in a finals situation before?
A I've never come across anything like it. First is first, and that's it. I can see the logic a wee bit, but it's not really what I'm used to.
Q Do you appreciate what the finals mean in Australia?
A They're important for Sydney. Sydney is a big city, it's expected to be the best in everything it does. So it's important we produce the goods, that we stand up and be counted.
Q Last week Sydney FC set a new A-League attendance record. Are the crowds important to you, as a marquee player?
A We've shown we can attract the biggest crowds, and that's good for the game. I like to think if I can produce, and help the crowds and the people here, that's great. However, it's a team effort. It's not just one person. But if I can contribute in whatever way I can, that's magnificent. Hopefully we can go on from here and get even bigger crowds in the next few weeks.
Q It takes a while for any player to feel part of a dressing room. Do you feel part of the Sydney dressing room now?
A I don't have a problem, I'm an easygoing kind of guy. I never want to shy away from my teammates, be a snob, so to speak. I'm always happy to share my experiences and show them what it takes to be a winner. My personality speaks for itself. It's never really an issue to get along with my teammates.
Q What do you see in this team?
A I see a bunch of experienced and young players who are trying to go on and make it for themselves. And yet they have a dominating figure in the dressing room that they all look up to. Certainly being captain of the team, I push them to the limit, and they all seem to respond. I need to continue to do that. Being in the dressing room with the likes of Roy Keane, being captain of my country, helps me to install the winning mentality.
Q You seem to enjoy being captain.
A I do now. I never saw myself as a leading figure because I've always been a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. But I suppose when you get older, you get the experience, you take things a wee bit different. That's how people now see me, so I hope to do it to the best of my ability.
Q Is this a precursor to being a coach one day?
A No, no … [pause] … you know you never know in football. I think I've got a lot of knowledge. Realistically, I don't see myself being a coach, but I wouldn't rule it out. I have to see what's out there, weigh it up at the time. But right now I'm just enjoying being the captain.
Q Now that you've seen the finals format, do you believe Sydney have to win the grand final for the season to be judged a success?
A I didn't think we'd get a second bite at the cherry. I thought they [Adelaide United] would be champions, and that's it, because that's what I'm used to. However, we have our chance here and I want to make sure we get it right this time. That's why I'm going to push hard to make sure that happens, because I want to be successful. It's not going to be easy; however, if we play to our potential, I don't see why we can't beat Adelaide. We've done it in the past.
Q Are your competitive juices going to get going now there is a finals series?
A This is what football should be all about. For me the job is to make sure I'm the dominant figure in the game. Adelaide have done fantastically well all season, and credit to them, but I believe I can stamp my authority on any game. If I'm at the top of my game, it shouldn't be a problem.
Q Are there any teams in the finals series Sydney need to be careful about?
A We have a lot of respect for every team, but I don't see why we shouldn't go on and win it. But we have to play to our potential. If we think we've done it, we've a serious issue. With the management staff, and myself being the leader of the team, I'm sure that won't happen.
Q Are Sydney through the bad patch?
A I always felt we weren't far away. You look at all the games we played, we were the dominating team but we didn't kill the other teams off. You have your down period. We should have wrapped up second place ages ago, but it didn't happen. But we've got a bit of luck, we've got our killer instinct back. We're on a two-game winning streak, and suddenly things look very promising. It's a good time to come into form. Things are heading in the right direction.