With a clean sweep of football’s major trophies, more than 100 Premier League goals to his name and a ‘lifestyle’ most can only envy, it is no wonder Dwight Yorke possesses one of the game’s most recognisable smiles.
The boy brought up on the golden beaches of Tobago has lived life to the full with his dazzling grin and exploits in front of goal charming terraces up and down the country in equal measure.
Dubbed the ‘smiling assassin’ and hailing from the party islands of the Caribbean, Yorke certainly knows how to enjoy life, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing – with the prolific striker describing his spell at Ewood Park as the time the smile died.
A family tragedy, a high-profile failed relationship, a battle over visitation rights for his son, an explosive managerial bust-up and being subjected to racial abuse at Ewood Park left him a broken man and on the verge of quitting the game for good.
Yorke says his time at Rovers effectively ended during an X-rated training ground row with manager Graeme Souness, the culmination of the duo’s fading relationship and Yorke’s increasingly bit-part role at Ewood.
He describes how during a five-a-side session, Souness ‘raked his studs down my shin’ leaving him to instantly walk off the field to inspect the damage.
He added: “Even if he had not intended it, the effects of his actions could easily have matched his threat to break my leg.”
The furious striker then ‘lost the plot’ as he confronted his boss in the canteen, swearing and shouting in front of the squad, before walking out and claiming ‘I will never play for you again’. He didn’t.
“Graeme was showing me no respect,” said Yorke.
“It came to a head in that incident on the training ground and that tackle.
"I have never experienced anything like it in my career before or after.
“It takes a lot and something really, really terrible to upset me.
"It really does, because I am a really easy-going person.
"Everyone who knows me will tell you I am a happy go lucky type of guy.
“That wound me up big time. In my 20-odd years it was a one-off.
"Maybe it was his way of showing me who is boss, but there are ways and means.
"We are all grown men. I was 31 at the time so treat me like that, don’t treat me like a kid.
“After that I couldn’t get away from his company and control quick enough.
"It ended whatever was left of the relationship I had with him.”
Yorke arrived at Blackburn Rovers from Manchester United in 2002 for £2million with a big reputation.
"He had won the Champions League, the Premier League three times, the FA Cup and the League Cup and was relishing being reunited with Andy Cole.
After a promising first season, where he finished top scorer to help Rovers into Europe, his East Lancashire adventure started to turn sour when the death of his sister Verlaine with cancer coincided with his split from Katie Price, aka Jordan, and falling out of favour with Souness.
Yorke said: “The next two years of my life were to bring some of the bleakest episodes in my life and I think it was the moment my sister died which plunged me into the darkness.
"I came back from Verlaine’s funeral a changed man.
“I wish that on no-one, to have the problems with my ex and lose your sister and have a manager who is not fancying you or seeing you the way he can and not feeling the love you expect in a difficult time.
"I didn’t feel he was showing me love.
“I had to find myself in a very difficult period and even though I moved on to Birmingham, I still had to find myself and find the passion for the game.
“Was the fire still burning for the game? There were so many questions and I had no one to really turn to. I had to look within myself to find that.
“My move to Sydney gave me a sense of ‘come on let’s get myself together’. ‘It is all about you’.
"Whatever happened, happened for a reason. It was a shambles at the end of Blackburn, Birmingham shouldn’t have happened but in Sydney I found myself and found the passion.”
Yorke was desperate to throw himself into his football after the death of Verlaine but, with Rovers caught up in a relegation scrap, Souness turned to Jon Stead and left Yorke and Cole on the sidelines and out of favour.
He wasn’t helped by his personal circumstances either, having to travel to Brighton every Wednesday after training to visit son Harvey, and his bitter split with Jordan splashed all over the front pages.
A move to Birmingham City in August 2004 failed to re-ignite his passion for the game, especially after encountering racist abuse from the crowd for the first time in his career for the Blues at Ewood Park, leaving him ready to hang up his boots for good.
He said: “I got to the stage where football did not become number one priority as it used to be. I had the issue with me ex, my sister dying, it was a difficult time.
“All that time, I was trying to play football and pretending I was very happy and try to play the game the right way and not getting the backing of the manager didn’t particularly help either.
Everyone knew me for my smile but the smile went from my face during my time at Blackburn.
“There were many times when I thought I don’t need this. Why don’t I just quit? I was so close to jacking it in. I was going to be a professional golfer. I was that close but then the Sydney offer came in just in time so I thought give it a go.
“Football in Sydney was growing and I was going to be the face of the whole thing. It was a bit like how Becks tried to get it done in America. It was wonderful and I am glad I made that step and found that love for football again.”
A retired 38-year-old Yorke is now focusing on returning to the game one day as a manager, confident his experiences with some of the game’s most well-known bosses can only help his education.
Having already started his coaching badges, and holding the assistant manager’s role for Trinidad and Tobago, Yorke is just waiting for his chance.
So are accusations of him being ‘a football playboy’ fair? Yorke just smiles, before pointing to his 127 Premier League goals, countless winners medals and World Cup finals appearances.
He said: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion but to be one of the top scorers in the country, win numerous trophies, some playboy I am ? I did like to have a good time but people failed to see my record.
“I don’t go bragging and people don’t give me the credit I deserve.
"But the history books don’t lie.
“Now I can look back and reflect, I am immensely proud.
"When I sit down and talked to players in the dressing room at Sunderland, Birmingham and Blackburn and listen to some of the players and what they have achieved and trust me there aren’t many who have done what I have.
"Nobody in fact.”