Dwight Yorke has challenged Gabby Agbonlahor to finally smash his long-standing record by becoming the first Aston Villa striker in 13 years to score 20 goals in a season.
Not since Yorke notched 17 in the Premier League, two in the FA Cup and one in the League Cup in the 1996-97 campaign has a claret and blue player totted up a score of goals.
But the retired Trinidad and Tobago star reckons Agbonlahor has as good a chance as any of his Villa successors to smash through the 20-goal barrier in all competitions this term.
Yorke’s challenge comes after Peter Withe set the Brummie hot-shot an even harder task to match his own record of 20 league goals which has stood since Villa won the First Division in 1981.
At the mid-point of the season, Agbonlahor is almost halfway there, having scored nine times altogether, including eight in the Premier League and one in the Carling Cup.
“I had a couple of good seasons where I scored around 20 goals,” said Yorke, who, as well as his milestone tally in 1996-97, found the net 18 times the year before and 16 the year after.
“Agbonlahor has showed that he scores goals, but the Premier League is a hard place to score that many.
“There’s very few people in the country who can do that, let alone at Villa. It’s not as easy as some people think.
“But if you’re scoring 20 odd goals a season in league and cup that player is contributing significantly.
“So he needs to set himself a target. It’s a very good possibility barring injuries and stuff.
“That’s what guys like Agbonlahor need to be saying. That record of me being the top scorer at Villa with 20 league and cup goals has stood for 13 years and somebody needs to break that.
“Records are there to be broken. I don’t want to hold on to a record forever.”
Yorke has been impressed with the way Agbonlahor has improved his all-round game since bursting onto the first team scene at Villa as a raw teenager almost four years ago.
And the former Holte End favourite believes the latest star striker in B6 has an outside chance of making England’s 2010 World Cup squad for South Africa if he continues to develop.
“He’s come on a lot and you can see that,” added Yorke.
“He’s improving. I think in the first couple of years he was a little bit erratic, but he has pace and you get more experienced the more you play.
“You learn the game more and you play the game in your head a lot more, rather than relying on just sheer pace.
“He’s got all the ingredients to go really far but it’s up to him how he puts all that together to try and blossom into a player.
“You’ve got to improve in the Premier League and he knows that he’s got to work on certain aspects of his game.
“As long as he doesn’t take his eye off the ball and he continues to want it, then the world is his oyster really.”
Dwight Yorke is rooting for Aston Villa to repeat 1996 Carling Cup success.
Dwight Yorke has challenged Aston Villa to end their search for silverware – after revealing that the club’s last League Cup triumph gave him the taste for trophies.
Yorke is amazed that Villa have failed to win anything since his goal completed the scoring in Villa’s emphatic Coca-Cola Cup final victory over Leeds at Wembley in 1996.
But the former Holte End hero is confident that this year’s Carling Cup march to the semi-finals has given Martin O’Neill’s men a great chance of ending a near 14-year-wait.
Villa take on another of Yorke’s former clubs, Blackburn, in the last four at Ewood Park on Tuesday before the return leg at Villa Park on January 20.
Yorke has fond memories of the ’96 win under Brian Little – insisting it whetted his appetite for further success.
It certainly worked as Yorke hung up his boots last season with three Premier League titles, a Champions League and an FA Cup winners medal with Manchester United also on his mantelpiece.
“The 1996 League Cup final was the one that gave me the taste for it,” recalled Yorke, with his trademark grin. “That was just the best feeling at Wembley. It was a dream to score there as well. I was at the top of my game. That’s exactly what happens, you get the taste for it.
“When you win that first trophy there is no better feeling.”
Yorke quipped that when regularly misfiring forward Savo Milosevic – dubbed Savo Miss-a-lot-evic – opened the scoring with a screamer Villa knew it was going to be their day, with Ian Taylor the other scorer.
“Those opportunities don’t come along very often,” said Yorke. It was really a special occasion and I was lucky to experience it playing for a club that I still adore. The fans at that time adored me and I adored them the same by giving them something.
“I was an entertainer and I played the game with a big smile on my face. I enjoyed playing for Villa. And when Savo scores you know it’s all happening! It was a great occasion.”
Yorke also has fond memories of Villa’s semi-final success in 1996 as they came from two goals down against Arsenal at Highbury to draw 2-2 and hold out for a goalless draw at Villa Park in the return leg.
The away game was one of his finest performances in a Villa shirt as his double cancelled out an early Dennis Bergkamp brace and he admits it was an evening that will live long in his memory.
“We were two goals down in the first leg of the semi final at Highbury, with Dennis Bergkamp on fire for them,” said Yorke. Pretty much everyone thought the tie was over and done with after barely half an hour. But that was to be some night and I’ll never forget it. I think I played one of my best games for the team, scoring twice to draw the match.
“Thanks to the backing of my new manager Brian Little and the increased confidence I felt, I went to Highbury no longer frightened by anything or anyone, even though the legendary Arsenal back four – Tony Adams, Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon – were notoriously intimidating.
“But I was full of confidence by then. We remained goalless in an absolutely epic second leg at Villa Park.”
Despite this season’s semi-final pitting two of Yorke’s former clubs against each other there will be no danger whatsoever of him have divided loyalties when Villa take on Rovers.
But, although, the retired 38-year-old holds Villa in much higher regard than their last four opponents, he has warned against the risk of writing off Sam Allardyce’s men.
And with Manchester United or Manchester City awaiting the winners in the final at Wembley on February 28, Yorke has challenged Villa’s class of 2010 to seize the moment.
“Villa don’t need to jump ahead too fast because Blackburn are a steady team and they could create a surprise on the day,” said Yorke.
“I’ll be rooting for Villa anyway, everyone knows that. It’s a great opportunity for them to not only get to Wembley but to have a chance of finally winning a trophy for the first time since we won it.
“Villa will be favourites, but that counts for nothing on the day.
“But what an opportunity to really stamp their mark and win something. The last time they won something was with us in 1996 which is a long time for a club of Villa’s size.“
Ferguson wants Rooney-Berbatov partnership like Yorke-Cole.
By: Steve Millar (Daily Star).
Sir Alex Ferguson is seeing double this new year – and it has got nothing to do with a wee tipple at Hogmanay.
The Man United boss is rubbing his hands at the prospect of Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney shooting the lights out to grab even more honours in 2010.
And as Ferguson refl ects on the developing partnership of Berba and Roo, he can’t help letting his mind wander back to that other deadly duo which made history in the last decade.
Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole, were put together for a comparatively modest £19.6million. Fergie paired them up by accident with devastating results, which brought about the Scot’s first Champions League triumph in 1999.
Berbatov and Rooney together cost £49m and Ferguson believes they’re worth their weight in gold as United launch a chase for a quadruple of FA Cup, Carling Cup, Premier League and Champions League.
Ferguson said: “I think the partnership between Berbatov and Rooney is growing. “They have a good partnership. I think there is a combination there, between the two.
“I think they are different types of players but they are suited to that combination.”
Fergie added: “There are some partnerships which click right away like Yorke and Cole. That was amazing.
“It just happened. When I brought in Yorkie my thought was maybe playing him with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Or Yorke with Teddy Sheringham.
“My immediate thought was not Cole and Yorke. But when they played together they were unbelievable. They seemed to develop their partnership really quickly.
“It was brilliant. Cole’s form that first year of them being together was terrific. Hopefully this one with Berbatov and Rooney will be the same. It’s bubbling along nicely.
“We certainly hope that Berbatov will explode for the second half of the season. He was carrying an injury for a bit and it was affecting his game.
“It was also affecting, his own confi dence about whether he should have an operation. But he’s come through that now and he’s okay. He’s a very good player. A very talented boy.
“Antonio Valencia is improving, too. He’s shy but I don’t think there’s any problem with his confidence. He’s had a couple of indifferent games but not only is he a threat, but he works his socks off, because he’s a great defender.”