Wed, Jun

Dwight Yorke

Dwight Yorke is adamant when asked about his feelings years after donning the claret and blue top: "This will always be MY club."

Yorke ranks among the greatest players in the club's history - and it is debatable if anyone has been more flamboyant.

Signed by Graham Taylor following a Villa trip to Trinidad and Tobago in 1989, Yorke developed into a world-class football who simply oozed talent and always played with a smile on his face.

Yorke says his beaming grin is evidence of the fun he had playing for Villa.

Of course, fans were in uproar when he moved to Man Utd in 1998.

He won a historic treble - League Championship, FA Cup and Champions League - in that first season with the Red Devils aswell as picking up player of the year and the top goalscorer gong with 18.

Despite this monumental haul of accolades, which continued in the years to come, Yorke still says Villa holds the most cherished place in his heart.

He said: "This is where it all started for me. I was here nearly nine years - that's pretty much half of my career.

"Villa is absolutely MY club - always has been and always will be.

"You can quote me on this - one day I will come back and manage the football club. That's how I feel. I have always believed that.

"My time at Villa got overshadowed in the eyes of some people because I went to Man Utd. But I know deep down this is MY club.

"It's the first result I check for. I am more of a Villa fan than a Man Utd fan, even though my association at Old Trafford is also great.

"Villa is very, very close to my heart.

"They were fantastic years in claret and blue. I played with great players and under great managers.

"I have so many great memories of my time at Villa Park. Of course, my biggest achievement was winning the League Cup in 1996 and scoring at Wembley. Things don't come much better than that!

"I just had the time of my life at Villa.

"I came from the Caribbean and, as everyone knows, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. And I knew I was joining a great club with a great tradition.

"People always talk about my smile. Why wouldn't I be smiling? How could I not be happy at such a great club?

"The fans were amazing with me at Villa. They believed in me. I had confidence in myself but they gave me even greater confidence.

"They helped me play with authority every time I went out. To have the crowd believing that I was going to do the business for them and score gave me great belief.

"We had a sensational bond. That was a feeling between us that no other player could appreciate.

"Of course, scoring at the Holte End was the absolute ultimate! It had real passion. They were always up for it. They got us through games. They won us some matches, definitely. When our backs were against the wall, they would scream us through.

"Playing in front of them and scoring in front of them was the best feeling. Ask any player! That's what they all want to do.

"And I played with some top, top players - McGrath, Platty, Cowans, Bozzie. They would all get into my dream team!

"Bozzie was special. He was a fabulous goalkeeper for us.

"McGrath was exceptional. Even to this day, I still drool about him. He'd top every list going.

"Sid had everything. He could use both feet, loved a tackle but had incredible vision on the park.

"He was an icon. I looked up to him. I watched the things he did, taking extra balls out after sessions and working really hard at his game. It inspired me. It was infectious."

Yorke, of course, sullied his name for many claret and blue supporters when he left for the Red Devils in a £12.6m deal in 1998.

John Gregory said if he ever saw Yorke again he's shoot him.

Yorke accepts and understands the fan fury but hopes time has healed the wounds which, at the time, seemed unmendable.

He added: "The relationship I had with the fans, the players and the managers was tremendous. There was enormous respect on both sides.

"It was very difficult for me to leave. But I needed a new challenge. I had done everything I could at Villa.

"But don't let anyone question my affection and affiliation with this football club and the fantastic fans.

"I love coming back now too. The respect I receive is amazing. The supporters are so warm and welcoming.

"I'd like to think, with the passing of time, that the anger has gone. I'd hope so.

"I remember the comment from Gregs at the time. He wasn't serious. Well, I hope not.

"John and I had a great relationship, a special relationship, going all the way back to the time when he was coach under Brian Little.

"He took a real interest in me as a player and was eager for me to develop and improve every day in training.

"Each day, he would fire balls at me to test my control and work me hard at Bodymoor.

"When he eventually became manager, I was delighted for him.

"I could understand his remark because he was angry with me. But I never looked over my shoulder!"