Reinvigorated by the World Cup, Dwight Yorke can't wait to get stuck into another season at Sydney.
THERE was a consensus surrounding Dwight Yorke in the lead-up to the World Cup. At the age of 34, Sydney FC's star attraction was about to lead Trinidad & Tobago through the finest chapter in their footballing history.
He had had a long and successful career. Captaining his country on world sport's most dazzling stage would provide it with a fitting conclusion. After the highs of Germany, there was no chance of seeing him back in the A-League - the remote, provincial A-League - this season. The prospect of hauling himself to Parklea for training and playing in stadiums where seats outnumber people every week would be too dispiriting a proposition to entice this confessed hedonist back to Sydney.
There was a consensus surrounding the team Yorke led to the World Cup, too. Trinidad & Tobago would "just be happy to be there". If other teams were intent on declaring that they were not in Germany to make up the numbers, the tiny Caribbean nation most definitely was.
Narrow losses to England and Paraguay and a lion-hearted draw with Sweden later, and that patronising hymn sheet was shown to be seriously out of tune. The team may have fallen just short of slaying these giants of world football, but in the process, it staked a claim to a far more original moniker: slayers of conventional wisdom.
Now, in a similar manner, Yorke - ageing, work-shy, blase Yorke - is returning to the club many had predicted he would end his association with after they scooped the top prize in the A-League's inaugural season.
The player is due back in town at the end of this week, and the news from his first interview since the World Cup will give further pause to those who were getting ready to book him a place in the retirement home.
"I'm in great shape at the moment and see another couple of years for me and my legs at least," Yorke told the Herald. "Teddy Sheringham - a great friend - gives us all inspiration. After that, I will start looking at coaching, perhaps."
Once they hit 30, footballers usually fall into two categories: those who quietly resign themselves to the inevitability of their own decline, and those who rage against that thought.
Sheringham, 40 and still playing for West Ham United in the English Premiership, is the patron saint of the age ragers. If Yorke makes good on his pledge to play for two more seasons, it surely won't be long before he's in line for canonisation.
And it's not just his legs that the Sydney captain is ready to put to work for the cause of the fledgling A-League. His mind also has a contribution to make. Asked what needs to be done to ensure the support the Socceroos received is channelled into support for the domestic league, Yorke replied: "I think the clubs have to keep supporting the plan of bringing better, 'big name' players. I don't believe that flooding the league is the right way, but I believe having certain 'names' at teams around the league substantially raises the profile of that individual club and the overall profile of the A-League.
"I would hope that the board at Sydney FC agree that bringing me here was a big gamble for them initially - but I hope they now think it's paid off by our success last year. I think the fans at Sydney certainly believe it. But more and more of the Aussie public need to come out and support the A-League."
Yorke is honest in his appraisal of the overseas profile of the A-League. He recognises that there is "not as much [overseas interest] as we'd all like". But suggestions as to how that profile could be raised - "It would be good if some of the highlights were picked up by Sky back in the UK," he offers - show that he is thinking about the game and can be an active participant in its development in this country.
All of which begs the question - why is he coming back for more? "Well, because I'm contracted for another year, for one," he said. "And, more importantly, I want to be here and love playing for Sydney FC. I think the public and the fans are first-class and have all been great to me. I hope they saw someone who wasn't just coming here to fade away. This contract means a lot to me. I know better than most from my Manchester United days that it's relatively easy to win a championship compared to trying to retain it. I can't wait for that challenge this season."
The response reveals a mixture of passion, integrity and genuine hunger for success - qualities that few would have associated with the name Dwight Yorke a year ago.
Yorke expressed admiration for the Socceroos' performance in Germany - "I was really surprised, to be honest, to see how well they did" - and offered the now-obligatory commiserations on the manner of their exit: "I thought they were unlucky because the Italy penalty should never have been given."
But the more illuminating insight came when asked who Australia should appoint as their next coach. Yorke's suggestion? Marcello Lippi.
"He's just won the World Cup when it wasn't expected - but I'm not sure how the Aussies would take that after the way they left the tournament!" he said. "I think [Guus] Hiddink is a great coach but I'm sure you'll find someone different with fresh ideas [who] could be just as effective. It's a great job to take and I am sure there will be any number of top-quality candidates interested."
Speaking after his team played with 10 men to secure an epic goalless draw against Sweden last month, Trinidad & Tobago coach Leo Beenhakker offered the following insight: "We have seen once again that in football, two and two is almost never four - and it is mostly either three or five."
Yorke's late-career blossoming offers proof that 3 and 4, when placed together, don't always lead you to the wrong side of the hill. During the coming season he will lock horns with the keepers of conventional wisdom once more. In one corner there will be biology and its ruthless logic. In the other there will be Yorke, intent on smashing biology to bits. It will make for compelling viewing.