An interview with Dwight Yorke, by Callum McFadden for WFi.
You are currently managing Macarthur of the A-League where you have just won the Australia Cup. How proud are you of that success and how would you sum up your first experience of management so far?
“Winning is what really matters in management and winning the Australia Cup is the best possible start for me in that regard.
“The players and my backroom staff must take as much of the credit as me because it is a team effort in everything that we do.
“I also thank the owners and the board of directors at the club for matching my ambition and backing us to be successful even within a short period of time.
“It has been a good start to my managerial career so far and I am pleased with how things have progressed up-to this point.”
You were born in Trinidad & Tobago and had an illustrious playing career primarily in English football which started at Aston Villa. How were you spotted by Villa and was it a challenge to adapt to English football under Graham Taylor at the time?
“Graham Taylor brought Aston Villa to the Caribbean for a tour in the late ’80s and I played against them at the age of 17. I impressed them so much that they offered me a trial and subsequently signed me.
“Moving to English football was a massive step for me having grown up and played football in the Caribbean.
“It was a challenging time for me in my first few months in Birmingham because I knew nothing about what it took to succeed in professional football prior to joining as I did not have the prior academy experience that players would have nowadays.
“I also had to adapt to the differences in climate and food in the UK compared to what I was used to back home.
“Culturally, England is very different to Trinidad so I had do adapt to the oriole that I was working with too.
“It was a huge chance in my life because I was not a fully-fledged adult when I made the move. Far from it, I was technically still a minor at the age of 17.
“However, I always wanted to play football professionally and I followed my dream because I knew that moving to England was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me.
“I wanted to achieve success that no other West Indian player had achieved in the game and as such, I was prepared to give football my all.
“Thankfully, the rest as they say is history and things worked out.”
What are your personal highlights from your 8 seasons playing regularly in the Villa first team?
“I enjoyed my time representing Aston Villa. It was huge for me to have the opportunity in the Premier League for such a massive club.
“Villa have a unique history as former European Cup winners, and I served my football education at the club before breaking into the first team.
“I learned from Graham Taylor, Ron Atkinson and Brian Little what it took to play in the Premier League.
“We also won the League Cup at Wembley during my time there which was special too.”
As you say, you won the League Cup with Villa in 1996 beating Leeds 3-0 in the final at Wembley whilst also being on the scoresheet. Can you talk me through what that was like for you at the time?
“It was a wonderful day for the club and for myself. It meant so much to me as I was left out of the 1993 Cup success against Manchester United under Ron Atkinson.
“So to play a big part in the ‘96 final and win 3-0 in a game of that magnitude was special. The result was as comprehensive as the scoreline suggested.
“The Villa fans turned up in incredible numbers to Wembley and they were unbelievable for us that day. It was great to repay them with the win and to score a goal too.
“The goal that I scored was the last goal of the game and I had tears in my eyes as the ball hit the back of the net. I felt extra emotion that day after missing the last final.”
You swapped Villa Park for Old Trafford in 1998 by moving to Manchester United. What was your initial reaction when you heard of United and Sir Alex Ferguson’s interest in you?
“It was massive for me. (Phone rings at this part of our interview) ‘Sorry I’ve just got Brian Lara on the other line. I’ll call you back.’
“Sorry about that (laughs). Yeah, as I was saying, it was a massive moment for me and as soon as I heard of United’s interest in me then I wanted to join the club.
“Aston Villa are a very big club but Manchester United are the biggest club in the world and they are always competing for the biggest prizes in the world. That was the only reason I left Villa.
“I wanted to prove myself at the highest level of the game in England and in European football so making the move was a no-brainer.“
You won a historic treble in your first season at Manchester United and forged a prolific strike partnership alongside Andrew Cole. What was the treble-winning campaign like from your perspective as a key player in the team?
“Playing at Manchester United gives you the platform to showcase your talent and to compete for the big prizes in the game but winning the treble in my first season was something that I could never have dreamt of.
“Of course, I was confident that we would win something given the quality at the club and the previous success that Sir Alex had with the group.
“However, to go and win the Premier League, FA Cup and the Champions League in the manner that we did was utterly unbelievable.
“It is such an achievement that it has only been done once by an English team which was us and never again since.
“I do not think that anyone would have expected the treble for the club but to play a small part in that success with a strong group of players was all of my dreams come true.”
What are your memories of that crazily dramatic ‘99 final again Bayern Munich in Camp Nou?
“You’ve summed it up pretty well there. It was crazy. There was too much happening to properly remember it all vividly.
“We were riding on the crest of a wave having already won the Premier League and the FA Cup and knew we were on the verge of making English football history.
“The focus was on the game itself and winning was the only aim. Not how we would play on the night, solely winning. It was all that mattered and the manager made that clear to us.
“We needed to get over the line and we did not play great on the night. Bayern were a very strong side and they showcased that in the final.
“Don’t forget, we went into that final missing our two key midfielders in Roy Keane and Paul Scholes. They would be a huge miss for any team in world football and were for us too.
“However, we showcased the never say die attitude that we were synonymous for to win the game in such dramatic fashion thanks to the goals from Teddy and Ole.
“Looking back, without doubt, we produced one of the biggest shocks in the history of football given how late we left it to turn the game around. Incredible memories for sure.”
Can you share some insight into what Sir Alex Ferguson was like to play for?
“When when you play for a great club like Manchester United, you do not become a great team without a great manager.
“That is what the boss was for us. He is the greatest manager of all time in my opinion.
“It was a privilege to work under him. He has been such a father figure to me and all of the players that played for him.
“He led the club with great distinction and never lowered his high-level demands or expectations. That was what made United so consistent and so great under him.
“I owe him a lot for taking me to Manchester United and for his guidance in my four years playing for him.”
You have spoken in the past about the pride you hold for your native Trinidad and Tobago and for the Caribbean. What was it like for you to lead out your country at the 2006 World Cup as a captain and where does that rank in your career highlights?
“It is up to there with my best moments especially when you think about our small country of Trinidad and Tobago reaching the World Cup, it is nothing short of remarkable.
“We are one of the smallest nations in World Cup history to reach the tournament which emphasises how big an achievement that was.
“I am incredibly patriotic and it was a remarkable feeling for me to captain my nation at a World Cup finals.
“I cannot tell you just how much it meant to me. A wonderful moment and one that I will never forget.”
Following the 2006 World Cup, you joined your former Manchester United captain, Roy Keane at Sunderland, where he was manager. You won the Championship title to return the club to the Premier League. What was your time on Wearside like?
“The year before the World Cup, I moved to Sydney FC in Australia and we won A-League in my season at the club, which was special.
“Then, the World Cup concluded and I received a call from Roy Keane asking me to return to England to join him at Sunderland in the Championship.
“I had never played in the Championship before so I was unsure of what to expect.
“However, I wanted to play for Roy and I agreed to join him. When I arrived, we were 23rd out of 24th in the league and I remember thinking, ‘What on earth have I let myself in for here at the grand old age of 35?’ (Laughs).
“That being said, I was Roy’s first signing and he made it clear to me that he had a plan to take the club forward.
“He wanted me to play for him to help the group on the pitch and also be a leader in the dressing room by becoming team captain.
“I played my part and we won the league title by April to cap the miracle off. I do not think anyone expected us to succeed so quickly under Roy especially as it was his first managerial job.
“It was a good feeling to return Sunderland to the Premier League and I enjoyed my time at the club.”
Was Roy Keane similar in personality as a manager to what you knew previously as a captain?
“There were some similarities, for sure. It was interesting to see him as a manager in his first job because I had known him as a teammate and as a captain.
“As a manager, he expected the highest of standards like those he was used to as a player. That led to him, at times, being frustrated at not working with the calibre of players that he was used to as a player. However, he adapted to that over time and was flexible to know how to get the best out of the group.
“When you are in management, you need to work be able to work with the hierarchy of the club as well as the players and staff.
“If you know Roy Keane like I have known him over the years, he is not always the best ‘people’ person.
“That must have been challenging for him on a daily basis because he had to run the club from top to bottom which is completely different to being a captain.
“I believe that Roy would be best suited to international management because he would have the aura and respect of the players without having to manage them on a daily basis for a prolonged period of time.
“I think that would suit his style best particularly as he enjoys watching football as you can see with his punditry work now.
“International football would probably be the best of both worlds for him.”
Finally, Dwight, you have played at the highest level and won the Premier League and the Champions League as a player. Is that the level that you aspire to coach at in future?
“Going into management has always been an ambition of mine.
“In the past, I have been told that I do not have the experience to merit certain jobs, but without someone giving you an opportunity then how can you ever gain experience?
“Therefore, I am grateful to Macarthur for the opportunity to manage the club and I am building up the mileage as a coach.
“Of course, I want to coach at the highest level possible, like I did when I was a player.
“I am 50 years of age and I won’t be around forever so I want to prove myself as a manager and be the best that I can be.
“However, I am fully focused on my role here at Macarthur and I hope to achieve continued success here to help me on my way.”