Tue, Jul


Dwight YorkeJUST a few days after doubting Kenwyne Jones's confidence, the Trinidad and Tobago and Sunderland striker scored a double in the toughest league in the world to help his club to a 2-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers last week Saturday.

And in the early hours of Sunday morning, Jones' match-winning feat had me thinking that Dwight Yorke is the best-ever footballer to come out of T&T.

For what Jones has been doing for a couple of years, Yorke maintained for more than a decade, during which he became one of the most-loved players and top scorers in the English Premiership.

I'll admit to die-hard fans of Russell Latapy that the Little Magician is the most skilful player this country has ever produced, but "Yorkie" is the complete package.

To the discredit of those who had the opportunity to give Latapy a long-term contract in England, he didn't make it in that most passionate of footballing countries, his physical stature going against him, and he took his kit to Portugal and later Scotland.

Instead, his good buddy Yorke thrived against the most ruthless defenders, scoring crucial goals for Aston Villa at first, helping them to the 1996 League Cup and securing their status as one of the top-ten clubs in England, then confirming his undoubted class with vital strikes for the biggest club bar none, Manchester United, with whom he won the most lucrative prize in club football, the UEFA Champions League, which puts an end to any argument about who's the best ever from Trinidad and Tobago.

And for good measure he also took home a League Championship and FA Cup medal at the end of that magnificent 1998-99 season.

If you ever had the good fortune to see a compatriot score a goal on his "home" ground in the Premier League you would appreciate the fervour and fanaticism that go into that competition, one of my fondest memories being there to see Yorke hit the winner for Villa at Villa Park in August 1997 in a mid-week game against Leeds United, Villa's third or fourth match after a dreadful start to the new season.

"Is that the most important goal since you've been in charge here?" was the gist of what one reporter asked Villa manager Brian Little after the game, while a smiling Yorke signed autographs outside the interview room, just a few steps from his silver Mercedes Benz.

"Start spreading the news, he's playing today, I want to see him score again, Dwight Yorke, Dwight Yorke," the fans at Villa Park, especially the ones at the Holte End, would sing to the tune of the Frank Sinatra hit, "New York, New York", in tribute to their number one player.

Just a few months later, in August '98, those supporters were heart-broken as Yorke headed to the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford, where he made Alex Ferguson look like a genius with his canny acquisition, albeit for 12.6 million pounds, scoring goals against Chelsea and Inter Milan, Arsenal and Juventus, and guiding United to their unique treble.

While listing Yorke's accomplishments I'm also forced to recall those who queried his commitment to the national team, countrymen dissing his performances in the red, white and black strip.

But Yorke preserved himself long enough to reap the rewards in the Premiership and still savour his finest hour against Sweden in Dortmund for the Soca Warriors' debut on football's biggest stage at the 2006 World Cup.

So that's the rebuttal to whoever knocked Yorke's patriotism, for make no mistake about it, we would have never made it to Germany without his input.

Before that, the one-time barefoot crab-catcher from Canaan, Tobago endeared himself to the fans of two of the best-supported clubs in world football, Aston Villa and Manchester United. Actually, three if you count Sunderland in his senior years.

Anyway, if you're wondering where this is going, another reason I started this ode to Dwight is because I wanted to put into words the fervent support of football fans in England.

So much so that last week Wednesday, when I had reason to be one of the happiest fathers in the whole, entire world after my daughter got her CXC results, I realised my delight was nothing compared to that of any and every supporter of Burnley FC who was at Turf Moor to see their team beat defending champions Man U 1-0 in their first-ever home game in the Premier League. Now that's happiness!

So with another captivating English season heating up and young Jones making us proud at the highest level, old Yorke, who sadly has not been picked up by any club after being released by Sunderland, is now on the outside looking in, struggling to be match fit as he tries his best to assist in Trinidad and Tobago's efforts to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

While we cherish his many highlights on the international stage, we have to be grateful that there are the likes of Jones to fill the breach and fill our hearts with pride when we sit down in sports bars like Trotters, amidst all the expatriates in their team jerseys, and see one of our own light up the turf and grab the headlines.

And for a little country, we also have Jason Scotland in the melee, trying to make his mark at Wigan, along with Carlos Edwards, while evergreen Stern John also had his time in the limelight at Birmingham and a few other clubs, preserving the legacy of our sons of the soil, established by Yorke since the early 90s and now maintained by Jones.

And that all leads up to the T&T Under-20s, who have the opportunity to make their name in Egypt when they play in the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

With Yorke having confirmed the quality of players from the twin-island republic, the U-20s are the ones to follow in his footsteps and join Jones in continuing T&T's presence in the Premier League.

Good luck to them as they head to the Land of the Pharaohs next month.