Sun, Sep

New Birmingham City signing Dwight Yorke has been backed to be a big success at St Andrew's by his old Aston Villa mentor Ron Atkinson.

Blues stunned the football world on Tuesday night by making Yorke their eighth signing of the summer just three minutes before the midnight Fifa transfer deadline.

Yet, despite the fact that Yorke turns 33 in November, and the obvious criticism that he appears to have seen better days, his old Villa manager Atkinson still backs him to produce the goods back on his old West Midlands stage.

"The greats never lose it," said Atkinson. "And Dwight has lost none of his quality.

"He might not have scored with the same frequency over the last few seasons, but I've seen quite a bit of him and I'm convinced he's still got a lot to offer in the right team.

"As long as the chances are set up for him he'll score goals. And, don't forget, he's more than just an out and out striker. His best position's probably tucked in just behind the front two, a role I know he looked good in on the first day of the season against the Albion, and he can play wide too."

Yorke, who was linked with Villa last month when it emerged that he was still coveted by his old chairman Doug Ellis, had started the day expecting to leave Blackburn Rovers for Celtic. He and his advisors were even at Parkhead at one stage, in the Celtic boardroom, speaking face to face with club officials.

But Blues boss Steve Bruce managed to tempt his board into preparing a rival bid. And, having kept both parties waiting long into the night as he weighed up the two clubs' offers, Yorke eventually chose Blues, signing in a £250,000 deal on a 12-month contract, with the option of a further year.

"It was a hectic day," said Bruce. "We got a tip-off that Blackburn had agreed to sell him and that he was on his way to Celtic.

"But we pulled out all the stops. I managed to get to speak to him and told him, before deciding anything, to give us a shout.

"In fact, Dwight made it clear he would prefer to join us and, although it was touch-and-go, we managed to push it through."

Atkinson is confident that Yorke's off-field activities down the years, which brought him into conflict with both his previous two managers Sir Alex Ferguson and Graeme Souness, will not have taken their toll.

"I never had a moment's bother with him," added Atkinson. "Although he was a lot younger then and hadn't had quite so much experience of life."

The only aspect of Yorke's past that will bother Blues fans is the fact that he used to play for Villa. Although, it is to his credit that the Tobagan striker does not have any history of appearing in a claret and blue shirt against them.

He was out injured when the two sides met in the League Cup in the Autumn of 1993, and it was not until Blues reached the Premiership two years ago that they first encountered him on the park.

He wrecked the party that August day when, in the first Premiership game ever to be staged at St Andrew's, he scored the only goal. But Bruce has forgiven him for that and is insistent that his 'previous' should not be taken into consideration. He will first play against Villa in a Blues shirt on December 12 at Villa Park.

"Villa is in the past," said Bruce. "His background was of no concern to him when making his decision. He made it clear he was very keen to play for Birmingham.

"Dwight's turned down a giant of a club in Celtic to come to us. He wanted to stay in the Premier League and he wanted to join us. You have to respect that.

"I'm delighted we've got someone of his terrific ability.

"He's proven at the highest level and is a great athlete. I've no qualms about him.

"It's not often a European Cup winner becomes available and I am sure he will add something to what we've got - and be a hit with the fans."

Yorke, who joins Stern John as the second Trindad & Tobago international on Blues' books, said simply: "I'm relishing the opportunity to continue my Premiership career with a progressive club like Birmingham City.

"I greatly admire what Steve Bruce has achieved in his time at Birmingham and I believe it is a club which is going places and I very much look forward to being part of it."