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Dwight Yorke says he was revitalised by taking a break from English football and, now he has returned, the competition for places at the Stadium of Light is bringing the best out of him.

Since returning to England in August, the former Aston Villa, Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers and Birmingham City player has been reminded of what he had been missing.

Yorke's career in English football looked over when he left Birmingham for Australian League side Sydney FC in 2005. During his spell Down Under, he reinvented himself as a midfielder and played in his first World Cup finals but nevertheless jumped at the chance to return to his adopted homeland.

"I did miss English football," he admitted. "Don't forget I played at the top level for 13 years.

"That was a long time and I needed a change. Sydney provided me with that.

"But coming back here was no problem.

"The gaffer (Roy Keane) brought me back and I was very flattered about that. Hopefully I can play my part in trying to get Sunderland promotion."

Despite being arguably the Championship's most decorated player, the 35-year-old is far from guaranteed his place in Sunderland's starting line-up for tomorrow's visit of Preston North End.

Yorke's start against Leeds United on Boxing Day was only his second in six matches and, despite his frustration at not playing every game, the veteran believes Keane's approach is the right one.

"The competition for places in midfield is good at the moment and that's the way football should be," said Yorke, who was restored to the Wearsiders' attack on Tuesday, having not played there since mid-October. "If you're not in the team it's about fighting your way back in and when you get your chance you've got to take the opportunity. I don't know it any other way.

"That's the way it's always been. It's good and healthy.

"Once every player has realised that's what football is all about we'll all benefit."

The competition for places is just as severe up front, where Stephen Elliott, Daryl Murphy, David Connolly and Chris Brown are all pushing for selection. Yorke believes it brings the best out of him and his team-mates, however.

"It gives you an extra edge," he added. "When you think you should be in the team and you see someone else come in and score that brings a good competitive edge.

"I think that's what we need, it's what the gaffer's trying to create.

"No-one's place is safe, even mine, and that's good.

"We have to recognise that and rise to the occasion.

"We'd all like to play every game but it's obviously not going to happen so it's important we try and play our role whenever we get the chance and help the team do well."

Having joined a team that was fighting relegation in August, Yorke is pleased by the way the Black Cats have turned themselves into genuine promotion contenders.

"It's been a little bit up and down but we're trying to find some consistency," he said.

"Although we think we should have got more points we'd have taken being at this stage right now over where we were three or four months ago.

"There's signs of progress and I'm sure when everyone's up and running and when the competition for places becomes more intense that will make the whole team better.

"Hopefully then we can get the points to be where we need to be in May."