"A great player" was coach Leo Beenhakker's description of Dwight Yorke after a match-winning performance from the Trinidad and Tobago captain in the 2-0 win against Iceland on Tuesday night.
Yorke struck both goals in a friendly that served as the FIFA World Cup™ newcomers' first warm-up match ahead of their finals debut in Germany in June, opening the scoring with a ninth-minute half-volley and then sealing T&T's victory from the penalty spot ten minutes after the break.
Afterwards Beenhakker said the former Manchester United forward remained, at 34, absolutely vital to his country's cause. "I know some people are talking about his age but as I always say age is something inside – it's nothing to do with your date of birth.
"He's absolutely fit and he shows every time he is a great player not only in an individual way but also as a guy who can move the team. I always can give him the message and he is able to translate it on the pitch. He's a very important player and he showed it again tonight."
Yorke warms crowd
A combination of the carnival celebrations in Trinidad and the fact 13 of Beenhakker's squad are based in Britain had prompted the decision to stage this fixture at London's Loftus Road stadium but if the bikini-clad dancers who braved the cold night brought a flavour of the carnival, it was Yorke's display that really warmed the noisy Trinidadian majority in the 7,980 crowd.
Drifting between midfield and attack, behind central striker Stern John, Yorke showed some delightful touches, notably his cheekily chipped penalty that recalled Czechoslovakia hero Antonin Panenka and one angled ball down the left for Collin Samuel in the first half, which left Iceland right-back Heldi Danielsson for dead.
The question now for Yorke, according to Beenhakker, is how to stay in top shape for the FIFA World Cup given that his club season with Australian side Sydney FC is reaching an end. Amid talk of a possible return to England, Beenhakker said he wanted Yorke to "stay fit and most of all to play matches" and explained: "The guys who are representing Dwight, they are working on it and he is prepared to do everything to play somewhere in a good league until the beginning of May."
Trio make debuts
Yorke's performance was not the only positive for Beenhakker from a game which brought debuts for goalkeeper Tony Warner, Ricky Shakes and Kevon Neaves, all as second-half substitutes. "My first interest in this match apart from winning was seeing my players again after three months and seeing some new guys and especially in that way it was a very useful exercise," said the Dutchman.
Neither Warner nor Shaka Hislop, who started in place of the injured Kelvin Jack, were seriously extended by the Iceland attack but Beenhakker admitted that Fulham goalkeeper Warner had "made a really good impression" since joining the squad. The outlook is also positive for University of Florida defender Neaves, first and foremost because he is a left-footer in a squad desperately short of them.
Beenhakker was also happy with the contribution of Dundee United winger Samuel, making his first start in a Trinidad shirt since last summer's Gold Cup. Samuel fashioned the first goal of the night, leaving his marker Danielsson trailing in his wake down the left and when his ensuing cross was only half-cleared, Yorke made no mistake.
"He did very well," Beenhakker said of Samuel. "I invited him already two or three times in the qualification matches. At that time I didn't have a very good impression of him but he is doing much better. I was happy with his performance."
Provisional squad named soon
Within two weeks Beenhakker will name a 28-man "pre-selection" for the FIFA World Cup, which he will cut down to 23 by the end of April. By the time T&T next play against Peru in Port of Spain on 10 May, the serious work will have begun – and with Group B matches against Sweden, England and Paraguay on the horizon, Beenhakker cannot wait.
"I am looking forward to it. We started this job last year May and since then we played nine qualification matches and every time the players came together they were - as a team and some in an individual way - a little bit better, so step by step you saw them grow and the last (CONCACAF qualifier) we played versus Mexico was absolutely perfect. When you realise this in three, four days, then how good can they be when you have them for four weeks together?"