It was the morning after the night before by the time Dwight Yorke flicked on the television in his hotel room to learn the news that had kick-started a wave of street parties back in Port-of-Spain. Trinidad & Tobago were to play England at the World Cup finals. "I was dancing around the room when I saw the draw," said Yorke, the thrill of a mid-June date in Nuremberg already stirring. "I tried making a few calls back to England, though the time difference was a bit of a problem."
If any of the West Indian's former Manchester United team-mates found his slumber interrupted in the small hours by the shrill of a mobile telephone, none was disturbed sufficiently to answer. Yorke's career was supposed to have faded into obscurity, though now the finals in Germany will provide a glorious swansong. The 34-year-old who rampaged at Aston Villa and United, then waddled along at Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City, is now a deep-lying midfield anchor down under at Sydney FC. As captain of his country in their first ever appearance at the World Cup, he is also a national hero.
The reality of Trinidad's rise will sink in eventually. "Being at the World Cup is big enough on its own, but the fact we have drawn England makes it even better," he said before Sydney's fifth/sixth place play-off against Al Ittihad in the Fifa Club World Championship. "I had a funny feeling it was going to happen. I have so much affection for England because I learned my trade there, but I saw the Northern Ireland result. They tend to have one or two hiccups along the way and we'll be hoping their players aren't on form.
"Let's get one thing right: we are the underdogs. We have a population of 1.2m people and England are one of the giants of world football. Everyone is expecting us to be beaten but, as captain, I don't want my team embarrassed. We want to make sure England have to work to win the game. We didn't start our qualifying campaign too well and were a little loose but Leo Beenhakker has sorted that out. Even so, if we can cause an upset, it would be the biggest upset of all time. But we expect England to beat us."
The trademark toothy grin accompanied the realism, hinting that Yorke may privately believe Trinidad can humiliate Sven-Goran Eriksson. But at the moment it is another manager who is occupying Yorke's mind. "Sir Alex Ferguson has done so well for the club and is a man with enormous dignity and respect in the game but, when things don't go well, people tend to make him the scapegoat. I've looked from afar and he's still a great manager who commands respect from the players."
Yorke added that he is happier now than towards the end of his spell in England. "I didn't enjoy the last two years. I was messed around at Birmingham and felt I didn't deserve that. The players in front of me weren't better than I am, but Sydney wanted me. I felt I'd had enough of England and I needed a change. I came to Sydney to enjoy my football again. I've got a big smile on my face, something I hadn't had for a couple of years and Trinidad has made it even bigger. Drawing England is a dream come true."