SYDNEY FC star Dwight Yorke has declared himself fit to start the opening game of the new season, scoffing at suggestions he might lack motivation to continue in the A-League after a personal triumph at the World Cup.
Yorke was outstanding as he skippered his country, Trinidad and Tobago, in Germany, where the Soca Warriors surprised the world by holding Sweden to a draw and losing only narrowly to their other group rivals, England and Paraguay. Yorke then had a holiday in England, where he was linked to several clubs, before becoming one of the last players to report back for pre-season training under new Sydney FC coach Terry Butcher.
Soon after resuming training, Yorke, 34, broke down with a groin injury and has been sidelined for the past three weeks. He will again be absent for tomorrow night's exhibition against Newcastle Jets at Campbelltown but has no doubt he'll be ready for the season opener against Central Coast Mariners at 5pm on Sunday week - a repeat of last season's grand final.
"The injury is good, the groin is OK, and if I don't resume training this week, then it will be Monday for sure," he said."As I've always said, the first game is the prime target, and there's no reason why that won't be the case. Obviously I won't have a game under my belt, and that's not ideal. But with the right preparation, there shouldn't be a problem."
While Yorke's contribution to Sydney FC and the A-League last season was immense, he also had the added incentive of playing in both the Club World Championship and trying to qualify for the World Cup. Without those extra goals, would he struggle for motivation the second time around?
"Definitely not," he said.
"First and foremost, I'm a professional footballer, and I set myself high standards. I play to win. To win the grand final again is a major priority, and I want to think positively and produce at the same level. We are also the team everyone else wants to beat, and for me that is an extra motivation."
One important issue Yorke has yet to sort out is whether he wants to keep playing for his country - a commitment that affected his availability for Sydney FC last season. New Trinidad and Tobago coach Wim Rijsbergen recently included him in his first squad before injury forced him out of last week's friendly against Japan in Tokyo. But with two home friendlies scheduled for September 2, and next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup on the horizon, Yorke remains in demand back home.
"Our football is going through a transitional period, and I'm talking to people about what's the right thing to do," he said. "I feel I'm ready to retire, but whether that's the right thing for my country, I don't know. Should I hang up the boots, or should I hang around for another six months to help maintain standards and guide the young boys through?
"It's a decision I've got to make, but Trinidad know my first priority is now Sydney FC. And if I do have to do any travelling, I will be in control of that particular situation."
Sydney FC are still hoping to negotiate an exit for young defender Wade Oostendorp to make room for short-term signing Nikolai Topor-Stanley to secure a permanent deal.
Butcher has made little secret of his admiration for Topor-Stanley, who is on the books as a replacement for injured midfielder Ruben Zadkovich. But with the club at the limit of the salary cap, the former ACT junior cannot join the squad long-term unless another player agrees to leave.
Oostendorp, 18, has rejected one offer of a payout and was still training with the squad yesterday. But, significantly, he was left out of the official team photograph at Aussie Stadium, while Topor-Stanley was included in his place.