Wed, Feb

At the tail-end of a career that saw the Tobago native plucked from virtual obscurity, plunged into the English top flight and grab goals and headlines in equal measure, Dwight Yorke - now in the twilight of his playing days - has found a sense of balance.

Just under two months after a rousing debut FIFA World Cup™ campaign with Trinidad and Tobago, the offer to return to England came from none other than Roy Keane, former Treble-winning team-mate with Manchester United and current boss of Sunderland in the English Championship.

In Germany, Yorke, who began his career as a pacy striker with an eye for goal, looked a bit more like Keane. Transformed into a holding midfielder, he surprised his doubters with inspirational performances in all three of Trinidad's games. As team captain, he was a force to be reckoned with, most notably in the opening 0-0 draw with Sweden.

When asked about his new role, the player told of a transformation that had occurred Down Under.  "It just came about as a result of playing down with Sydney FC, where I move around quite a lot in terms of position," he told "Sometimes I'm in midfield, sometimes I'm up front. Sure, the new role means a little defending and tackling now and then, but that's life," he said with a trademark grin.

Yorke was first spotted by former Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor on a tour of the Caribbean in 1989, the same year he almost steered T&T to their first appearance at the FIFA World Cup™ finals. Despite a succession of injuries, Yorke became the Villains' 12th all-time top scorer with 97 goals in 231 appearances.

His ruthlessness in front of goal and speed of both foot and mind sparked the interest of Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, who shelled out an astounding £12.6 million for the Caribbean goal-getter. He went on to score 47 goals in 95 appearances alongside Andrew Cole. It is fair to say that the pair forged one of the most intuitive and lethal strike partnerships in the English game, with the climax coming in 1999 as the Red Devils enjoyed Premiership, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League success.

In the summer of 2002, Yorke was transferred to Blackburn Rovers, but the goals dried up for him at Ewood Park and he found the net just 12 times in 60 league matches.  A brief spell at Birmingham City followed, but injury and poor form found him limited to 16 appearances in his year-long spell at the club.

Out of the blue
An unlikely move to Australia revived his fortunes just in time for Trinidad's first FIFA World Cup.

Yorke helped earn Sydney FC inaugural laurels in the Hyundai A-League in 2005. It was there that he also learned to come to grips with his new role, often dropping back to help the defence. At Germany 2006, led by Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker with Trinidad and Tobago, his dogged determination as a holding midfielder earned him plaudits from a great many who had seen fit to write him off a few years before.

The fans, too, praised the aging star. "When have you ever see Dwight Yorke tackling like that?" one delighted T&T fan asked rhetorically amid the celebrations following the draw with Sweden in Dortmund. In fact, in a curious statistic, Yorke was judged to have made the most tackles of any player in the first round with 21, while having 15 made on him.

The revival was enough to inspire old pal Keane to make Dwight his first signing in his first managerial post at Sunderland. "Dwight's a character, let me tell you, and that is what you need," the freshman manager remarked.

After making his debut in a 1-1 draw with Leicester City, much is expected of Yorke, who signed a two-year deal at the Stadium of Light.  It is hoped that he will help the Black Cats climb out of their current 17th-placed position and back into the English top-flight.

"I'm glad to be here, I'm looking forward to the challenge and I want to be on the pitch from start to finish," said Yorke in a recent interview.  "If I didn't think I could play 90 minutes, I wouldn't be here, I would have stayed in Sydney and taken the easy route.  It's a new challenge for me and I'm thrilled and flattered I was asked to come to a big club like Sunderland.

"I'm friends with Roy Keane but that's not the reason why I'm here. He knows what I'm capable of on a football field, I'm an experienced player and hopefully I can bring something to the team.  He (Keane) has said that he sees me as someone who can play a major role and that's good enough for me.  It's strange seeing Roy as boss, he has always been skipper to me, but I know what he brings to the table and what is expected.

"I will be disappointed if I don't get myself on a run of scoring goals and creating chances for others.  Roy [Keane] knows what I'm capable of doing and other players will get used to what I like, just as I'll get used to them."

And in yet another surprise twist, 34 year-old Yorke recently committed at least two more years to the Soca Warriors. Intent on playing in next year's CONCACAF Gold Cup, it appears that the pride of Tobago is most assuredly enjoying his new lease of footballing life.