Thu, Nov

Representing Man Utd, Tobago’s Dwight Yorke in action at the 2015 British Airways Tobago Legends Classic, held in the sister isle on June 20-21. --Photo: Ian Prescott.

THOUGH FOOTBALLER Dwight Yorke laughs off suggestions of a future in politics in his home country of Tobago, his passion to rid the Caribbean island of its ills would have you believe the opposite.

The former Manchester United star, who was once considered one of the Premier League's top strikers during his mid-90s heyday, takes his role of Tobago Global Ambassador seriously and wants to ensure that the country's ministers deliver on promises of a better island.

Yorke talked of his future ambitions during the recent inaugural British Airways Legends Football Tournament in Tobago.
“I definitely do not have any interest in politics, I never have," the former Manchester United star says candidly.

“I'm very grateful that my country recognises what I do and is proud of me and that I'm an ambassador. I'm happy to lead that front.

“I'm happy to contribute back to sports generally, to share my ideas, to share my knowledge of what it takes of being out there, of living out there and the determination of all those fundamental things."

However, on the country's ambitious plans to invest in sport with a strong impetus on the development of young people, Yorke says he'll leave it to the professionals in the hope they'll stand by their word and fully expose young people to the opportunities that are available to them.

“Our country is great and means well and people have always been that way. I have an issue that we have a tendency to talk the right talk, but we need to see a little bit more action rather than speaking.

“In office, we say the right things, but until it's really out there in the public domain, it counts for nothing," he said.
And though the country and its twin island of Tobago has produced some of the world's biggest sporting stars - which include Yorke and cricket hero Brian Lara - the footballer, who was capped 72 official times for the Trinidad and Tobago national team, is concerned that "sport is on the decline. I think the reality of it is that we reached our height in 2006 when we qualified for the World Cup.

“I think from a football point of view, that was the peak of our rise in football, so to speak and we expected the country to have blossomed in that period of time and the game to have continued to improve, but what we have seen is a decline and that is a crying shame of what has happened since then.

According to Yorke, “Everyone is looking for a quick fix and I think we need to get back to the drawing board in terms of the whole - when I say foundations, I mean fundamentals - of setting up the new policy and bringing the players through.

“Everyone wants to go from here to there tomorrow, but it doesn't happen that way. I feel we have lost sight of it."
However, he is hopeful about developing talent from his island.

“Even though we are a small country, we still seem to produce talent somewhere along the line. These kids now have a great opportunity. The opportunities are far greater than I had back in the day."

Yorke, who was first discovered by former Aston Villa manager Graham Taylor during a tour of the West Indies in 1989, made his First Division debut for Aston Villa against Crystal Palace on March 24, 1990, and quickly established himself as one of the Premier League's top strikers.

His good form caught the eye of Sir Alex Ferguson and earned him a move to Manchester United. In his first season Yorke was a key player in guiding his club to a unique Treble of the Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League, and forming a legendary partnership with Andy Cole.

He followed up his stunning Old Trafford career with brief stints at Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland, before announcing his retirement.

Now Yorke wants to ensure his “desire, sacrifice, determination and all these things" show young people from his native Tobago that anything is possible once you put your mind to it.

“For me, it's about sending positive messages back to the kids and hopefully the people who are in the position to make it happen, not just say it, but follow through.

“I think that's one of our challenges in this country, that we seem to say the right thing, but we never seem to follow through.”

He adds: “[In regards to sport], they can look at their sporting heroes of their own now to see 'well, this guy from just down the village managed to go to England and do something for himself.'

“That in itself should be inspiration and it's for us to come back here and preach that legacy to them as proven candidates who have been out there and done it - what it takes, the desire, the sacrifice, the determination and all these things."

He says this is one of the reasons he is always keen to come back home and reconnect with the sporting stars of tomorrow.

Yorke headed up a stellar line-up of all-star footballers, including Stan Collymore, Patrick Berger, Pierre Van Hooijdonk, Vladimir Smicer, Quinton Fortune, Luis Boa Morte for the inaugural British Airways Tobago Football Legends tournament, hosted in Tobago, over the weekend of June 20-21.

He says it was a “big day" for the island. "It was huge for the country in terms of bringing the British legends here to Tobago, to my home country. It means a lot to me.

“Not just me, but the people here as well because we are very passionate about the game. To have played a part in influencing the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and the government to invest in such a wonderful occasion for us, people were very excited."

And playing in a stadium named after him only served to make the tournament that much sweeter for the 44-year-old.
“I come from a very humble background to experience the heights of being a professional player and living out there and seeing what it takes," he says.

“I've grown up and I've gained a lot of experience and tried to find the right balance within my life now. If someone told me 20 years ago that I would be in this position, I would have told them they were lying, but it is what it is and for me, it's about sending positive messages back to the kids."

And the winners were...

THE Legends tournament was eventually won 3-1 by Liverpool in a thrilling final against the Caribbean All-Stars.
Patrick Berger, the retired former Czech international midfielder, scored twice and former England and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore got the other.

Stern John, formerly of Birmingham, Derby and Coventry, replied for the All-Stars. In the semis, Manchester United lost out 4-5 to the Caribbean All-Stars. The second match saw Liverpool beat Arsenal 3-2 via a golden goal.