Aston Villa’s meeting with Manchester United next weekend has brought the toughest decision of Dwight Yorke’s glittering career flooding back.
Yorke will be at Old Trafford ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash between his former clubs to sign copies of his autobiography Born to Score.
And the fixture has taken the retired goal hero on a nostalgia trip to more than 11 years ago when he agonised over quitting Villa to join United.
Yorke broke claret and blue hearts when he left John Gregory’s team to join Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils for a record £12.6 million in August 2008.
But his decision was vindicated when he added a European Cup, three Premier League titles and an FA Cup with United to the League Cup he won with Villa.
However, Yorke, who retains an affection for his beloved first club and would love to be forgiven by Villa fans, still vividly remembers his dilemma.
Writing in his book, Yorke recalls: “Talks began with Sir Alex Ferguson and the prospect of a transfer to United became a little more real.
“Not that I dared believe it would happen. I was still the kid from Tobago at heart who had already reached way beyond his wildest dreams.
“And no matter how things would later turn out, I also felt a strong sense of loyalty to Villa.
“Doug Ellis made it clear he was ready to offer a then staggering £27,000 a week.
“Villa then offered to throw in a £1 million signing on fee and the guarantee of a testimonial if I would sign there and then.
“I was in that meeting, listening to this offer and thinking: ‘Can I really walk away from this?’
“So why did I? Deep down, I was torn between dedicating the best years of my career to the club I owed so much and taking a chance of even greater things a hundred miles up the road.”
Yorke admits bumping into Villa fans on a pre-season break in Spain made him even more emotional about his impending decision to leave.
And he is keen to set the record straight over his final appearance in claret and blue when he flattered to deceive against Everton.
“The team took an end of season trip to Marbella and when we ran into contact with Villa supporters they immediately struck up the now familiar song: ‘It’s up to you Dwight Yorke, Dwight Yorke’. They were right, it was up to me,” he adds.
“That was the problem, it was up to me and these guys were making me feel so special. I felt a real conflict of loyalties.
“There was time for me to play what would be my last match for Villa, the opening game of the new season for Everton, and I think that must have been my worst performance for the club since I arrived. It was not through any deliberate policy on my part. It never would be.
“I know Villa fans have always accused me of ‘playing to get away’ that day but there was so much going on by then, so many distractions, that it was hard to focus on the game – anyone who has been in that position will tell you the same.
“This anchor in my life, Aston Villa, was being taken away and I was heading for new uncharted waters. I was leaving everybody behind, so many great times.
“I thought I would be at Villa forever.”
* Dwight Yorke: Born to Score is published by Macmillan and is on sale priced £17.99.