Tue, Sep

Dwight Yorke joined Birmingham City in the belief that he would be teaming up with his best friend but instead his arrival has initiated the departure of Stern John.

The centre forwards can trace their friendship back to the days when they were growing up in Trinidad & Tobago in the 1980s but sentiment usually ends when a football transfer is manufactured.

With Emile Heskey, Mikael Forssell and Clinton Morrisson also fighting to play up front for Birmingham, the arrival of Yorke might be one obstacle too many for John.

Coventry City are favourites to win the race to sign him and a deal could be done today.

Yorke, who moved to Birmingham on August 31 for £250,000 from Blackburn Rovers, has tried in vain to contact John over the past few days but the Atlantic Ocean is proving to be a formidable barrier.

John scored the winning goal for Trinidad towards the end of a World Cup qualifying match against St Kitts and Nevis on Saturday, which is one reason why Yorke cannot get hold of him.

Another, perhaps, is that John would prefer to forget the realities of his diminishing Birmingham City career.

"I have been trying to call Stern but I think he is in Mexico or somewhere, so it is a bit difficult," Yorke said.

"But we're great mates, so obviously that was another reason to join Birmingham. Actually, it was my suggestion that Stern should go to play in England."

Ever the realist, Yorke knows that he is inadvertently made life more difficult for John. The hope is that his friend will understand.

Coventry and Leeds United have both offered Birmingham £250,000 to sign John and it is likely that the the striker will leave St Andrew's today.

"We are all in a professional business," Yorke said. "And we want to achieve things and to be playing in the starting XI. When you look around the quality of players that are here, it is always going to be a challenge for any footballer.

"But if you are good enough and believe in your ability, I don't see a problem coming to such a club. At the end of the day the chance to join Birmingham City was too great to refuse.

"The Premiership has been part of me for a long time and I cannot imagine the day I will not be playing in this competition."

And to think that Yorke might have been a Celtic player had it not been for a dramatic intervention from Bruce. Events moved quickly, even by Yorke's rapid standards.

It is easily done. You are sitting in the boardroom at Celtic in Glasgow, you are interrupted by a telephone call, and then you agree to sign for Birmingham.

This was a deal that could only have happened in the mobile phone era and, as far as Yorke is concerned, the timing could not have been better.

As a former Aston Villa striker, he knows that some fierce abuse is about to come his way, but Yorke's move to St Andrew's was a footballing decision, borne of a need to remain in the Premiership.

The manager and player were sitting together at the Wast Hills training complex yesterday in what was the official unveiling of Yorke but, as it turned out, the first chance for Bruce to discuss the clean end to the Newcastle managerial affair.

With Bruce ruling himself out of contention, Newcastle turned to Graeme Souness, who was Yorke ' s manager with Blackburn.

Not that the player is looking back. Having signed what is surely the last big deal of his playing career, he is determined to prove to himself that the decision to choose Birmingham ahead of Celtic was wise.

"Celtic are a massive club and it was definitely the most difficult decision I have had to make," Yorke said. "It was not easy for me. I was actually sat in the boardroom at Celtic, talking about signing a contract for the club, and then came the call.

"As soon as I found out that Birmingham had made the effort to get me then the lure of the Premiership was the most important thing as far as I was concerned.

"This was a footballing decision I had to make. Celtic were throwing the kitchen sink at me, to be honest, offering me everything that a footballer could possibly want."

Aged 32, Yorke stands as one of the most decorated players in the Premiership. He won the European Cup, the FA Cup, and three Premiership championships with Manchester United, and is easily the best player to emerge from Trinidad & Tobago.

Reputations count for nothing, however, and Yorke knows that he must prove his ability on the pitch, just as he did for Blackburn, despite falling out with Graeme Souness.

"After the well documented problems of last season, Graeme Souness said that they were all in the past," Yorke said. "He included me for the first two games and then I didn't play against Arsenal, which was a disappointment.

"Joining Birmingham after my spell at Aston Villa is no problem. I am now playing with a club which is going places and that was a significant part of my decision to join Birmingham. If you know the history of it, then Birmingham are regarded as bigger than Aston Villa.

"I lived here for nine years and people have always said that Birmingham supporters are much greater in the city."