Dwight Yorke on dealing with fame, upsetting Alex Ferguson – and his bitter feud with Jordan
You describe your beginnings in Tobago as humble. Your mother was a cleaner and your father a binman who was, at times, full of rage and violence. Has he ever apologised for hitting you?No, never. My dad's cool now, he's a bit older and more mellow, his rage is not as vicious as it used to be. In those days it was traditional to get a beating. Not so today, and maybe that's why kids aren't as disciplined as they used to be. I'm not saying beating is the right way to go about it, but it certainly put me into my place. I still love my dad and appreciate what he's done for me, but I despise some of the things he has done to the family and certainly to my mum.
You came to Aston Villa from Tobago while still a teenager. That must have been a shock.
I used to play football on the streets, kicking breadfruits or oranges. This was like a dream.
A year later Ron Atkinson became Villa's manager. You describe him as "a raging bull".
I found his style of management difficult, I didn't understand it. It was a bad time in my career, it looked like I wasn't going to make it. But I stuck with it, and Ron stuck with me, and I'm grateful to him for that.
Were you surprised by his racist outburst [on ITV] in 2004?
Yes, it took us all by surprise – he was the first British manager to have any black players in his team. But as much as I would like to say he's been good to me, I can't condone what he said; I've got to be truthful to myself and not try to protect him.
Did he use language like that when you played for him?
Looking back, yeah, maybe he did, but I never thought anything of it because I had a vision, I knew where I wanted to go – so little remarks here or there wouldn't faze me. He might have done things in the past that maybe were a little bit out of order, but it didn't bother me because I knew I wanted something bigger – so I wasn't going to upset the boss.
At the height of your career, what was the most you were paid?
I was on 23 grand a week in 1998, that was phenomenal. And before I signed to Manchester United, there was a £27-28,000 a week offer on the table from Aston Villa.
Were you worth it?
I like to think so. I came here wanting to play football but also to help my family back home. When you convert that money into Trinidad and Tobago dollars, you feel like a millionaire. I've spent it all now, though.
Moving to Man United in 1998, you encountered Alex Ferguson and his "whiplash tongue" . . .
My first three years at United were pretty much flawless. In the first we won the treble and I finished top scorer: I was walking on cloud nine. I came back the next year and scored 26 goals. But in the third year I took my eye off the football, things were happening off the pitch – everywhere I went the media was talking about me, and no one had taught me how to deal with those things. It took me a while to realise I'd done some wrong, and by the time I tried to change it around it was too late. Sir Alex Ferguson is quite intimidating; he can make your life very difficult.
Did your lifestyle and reputation off the pitch ruin your career?
I wouldn't say it ruined my career. People have seen me party and having a good time with beautiful women, I'm not disputing that, but I don't think anybody out there has a better work ethic than me. I'm full-on with everything I do: if I party, I party; if I train, I train hard.
In your book you ask: "Making love and scoring a couple of goals; is there a better way to spend your time on the planet?" . . .
Did I actually say that? But yes, when you're a footballer that's the ultimate thing: if you play a fantastic game, score a couple of goals and then go home and make love to a beautiful woman, what more can a man ask for?
The first dedication in your book, to Harvey [the son he has with Jordan], reads: "So he may know the truth." What do you mean by that?
I've tried in the past to get to know my son. But his mum has made my life hell for a long period of time with some of the allegations she's made against me. My advisers and legal team tried so many times to make it work, yet this woman constantly tarnished my name out there, [saying] I'm a bad person, that I'm not caring. So I wanted to let Harvey know that I'm always here for him.
Do you think you've been a good dad?
I'd like to think so. I'm not saying I haven't made mistakes along the way, but I can say that I genuinely make an effort. And yet it was made to sound like I was never there.
When did you last see Harvey?
I haven't seen him for nearly nine months.
Do you feel guilty about not seeing more of him?
Yes, of course. I'd love to have an input in his upbringing, I'd love him to know the other side of his family, but it wasn't allowed. I can take some blame for not being able to contribute a little bit more, but not all of the blame.
Jordan has recently said that she was raped. Did she confide to you about it?
That's news to me. I know nothing about it.
Is there still a lot of bad feeling between you and Jordan?
Yes – but it didn't stem from me. I've defended her to my friends, I've tried to be as nice as possible, but over the years you can only take so much pounding. If I saw her on the street now, I'd walk straight past her. I don't want to say it because she's the mother of my child, but she is constantly making me feel like I'm such a bad person; she's got this bitterness towards me.