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Carlos Edwards last night insisted Sunderland are the talk of Trinidad after revealing that the club's Caribbean connections have seen the Black Cats challenge the traditional order of footballing fandom in his captivated homeland.


The 28-year-old linked up with international team-mate Dwight Yorke at the Stadium of Light two weeks ago and since the Soca Warriors' two biggest names joined forces in the North-East, the impact on Wearside's profile in the Antilles has been dramatic.

Cricket remains the most popular pastime in Trinidad and Tobago - with the chance to represent the West Indies still the main ambition for the islands' most-talented young sportsmen.

Yet football's popularity is on the rise and, having been gripped by the their compatriots' achievements at last year's World Cup finals, it seems the country's fast-growing ranks of supporters have now transferred their loyalties to Roy Keane's men.

"It is big news back home because, all of a sudden, there are two Trinidad and Tobago internationals playing for the same team," said a player who has been inundated with phone calls from his homeland since he joined forces with Yorke. "I never realised so many people had my mobile number until I came here. It has been ringing non-stop - but everyone has been leaving really nice messages and telling me how interested they are.

"Everyone is delighted for me and is wishing me the best. People are excited, especially my younger sisters because they are starting to see more dollar signs in their eyes. I do spoil them, but why not?"

The interest extends far beyond Edwards' immediate family and considering Sunderland's standing in the Caribbean these days, the next generation of Soca Warriors will develop with dreams of following in the footsteps of their celebrated countrymen on Wearside.

"Everyone has their favourite team when they are growing up and, seeing as Trinidad has a small population and is without the basic requirements for a professional league, most of those teams tend to be English," said the Port of Spain-born winger, who was part of the international squad that made history in Germany last summer when Trinidad and Tobago became the smallest nation ever to reach the World Cup finals.

"The favourites used to be Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal. More recently, it has swung towards Chelsea. But in the last few weeks, it has started to be Sunderland. "The awareness of what is happening here at Sunderland is unbelievable.

It feels as though everyone in Trinidad is logging onto websites to see what's happening at the club. I phoned a friend this week and she said `I'm on websites every day - finding out what kind of club Sunderland are'. Even people who I thought had no interest in football are becoming Sunderland supporters."

Such enthusiasts will have taken great interest in Edwards' exploits at the weekend, when he marked his home debut and first start in Sunderland colours following his £1.5m move from Luton by helping Keane's men beat Ipswich 1-0. He played alongside Yorke and there is no doubt the 35-year-old's presence on Wearside played an important role in his decision to move to the North-East. "He paved the way for me and I can't thank him enough for that," said a player who believes Yorke is responsible for making countless opportunities available for his Caribbean counterparts.

"He paved the way for myself and for all the rest of the lads who are playing in Europe. It wouldn't have been possible without him.

"People were watching Dwight in his prime and thinking `Let's have a look at where he came from and see if there's any more talent there'.

"You have to admire the guy and thank him for everything he has done and everything he is still doing now."

Edwards has made an encouraging start to his Sunderland career. But if he is to make the grade on Wearside, he knows that he will have to get to grips with the North Sea winds that made his first game at the Stadium of Light such a challenge.

"The result (against Ipswich) was excellent but the wind hampered the performances of both teams," he added. "The wind will always be there and you have to adapt but it does not make things easy. I have known it to be that windy before - when I played in the opening rounds of the Welsh Cup with Wrexham, you could be playing non-League teams in the middle of winter and it was tough. But I adapted to that and I will adapt to this."

More than 6,000 Sunderland supporters will travel to Hillsborough this weekend after a second batch of tickets for Saturday's Championship game at Sheffield Wednesday were snapped up yesterday. The match is an all-ticket affair.