The Trinidad and Tobago national football team's preparations for Wednesday's 2010 World Cup qualifier away to the United States were thrown into disarray yesterday when coach Francisco Maturana was denied the use of newly installed team captain Dwight Yorke as well as left back Avery John and promising teenaged midfielder Khaleem Hyland.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (T&TFF) claimed that the combination of a thigh and ankle injury ruled Yorke out of their September 10 engagement against the group leaders. However, Yorke admitted to the Express on Saturday night, that Sunderland ordered his return to England.
Sunderland manager Roy Keane, who played alongside Yorke at Manchester United, warned the Tobagonian in July that his international aspirations could jeopardize his future with the club. However, the pair decided that Yorke may be allowed to join the "Soca Warriors" if he did not figure in Sunderland's first team plans.
Yorke, who was unavailable for the start of the season through injury, is yet to wear Sunderland colours this term while Keane-whose 30-member squad is the most populous in the Premiership-has used four different players in the two central midfield roles that the 36-year-old Warrior could fill.
But, even before Yorke wore the armband on Saturday, Keane is believed to have phoned and said that he was in the frame to play against Wigan on September 13. The Irish coach does not feel the veteran can be at his best with three matches in eight days and issued an ultimatum.
Yorke insisted, on Saturday, that he wants to represent his country but was unwilling to fight with Sunderland on the matter. Although FIFA law insists that Sunderland make their players available for World Cup duty, Keane made it clear that he wanted Yorke to stick to his international retirement when he gave him a one-year deal in the summer. Sunderland also offered to look after Yorke's future by promising him a coaching job at the end of his playing career.
"I am feeling caught between a rock and a hard place with my club and my country," Yorke said on Saturday. "I want to play against the US but I don't know if I will be allowed to."
Yorke, who teed up Keon Daniel for Trinidad and Tobago's lone goal against Guatemala, said he felt physically capable of playing on Wednesday.
"I was 90 per cent fit (against Guatemala)," he said. "I have been dealing with a thigh strain but I am still fit enough to play for my country. I feel fine."
It is unlikely that FIFA vice-president and T&TFF special advisor Jack Warner will take action against Sunderland considering the possible ramifications to the country's most celebrated player. It is not immediately clear whether Yorke would be allowed to represent his country again in the World Cup campaign and if all future appearances depend on Keane's say-so.
Yorke's place in the squad goes to Economy North East Stars midfielder Akeil Guevara, while Defence Force wing back Aklie Edwards and Neal & Massy Caledonia AIA right back Gyasi Joyce replace John and Hyland respectively. The three replacements have 11 international starts between them. United Petrotrin defender Makan Hislop also returns to the squad after suspension.
Maturana is already without the services of injured W. Connection midfield star Aurtis Whitley, while he opted not to summon record scorer Stern John, combative midfielder Chris Birchall-both 2006 World Cup players-and Turkey-based striker Darryl Roberts who all played in earlier qualifiers.