Leopards, it is well known, never change their spots. However Black Cats, it seems, are capable of an unexpected transformation.
Dwight Yorke, the Sunderland forward, insists the club's manager, Roy Keane, has swapped scolding criticism for constructive serenity following his move into coaching. More surprising still, perhaps, is the Trinidad and Tobago international's own sobering makeover.
Yorke, famed for his party lifestyle and love of the limelight at his peak, is now preparing to preach professionalism and perseverance after a colourful 18-year career. "It's funny really," he said, after masterminding the second-half revival which enabled Sunderland to complete a deserved, if difficult, victory against Barnsley. "When I was growing up I never saw myself being a role model.
"But I see myself as a father figure here." If Yorke the mentor is revelling in his role reversal off the pitch then Yorke the playmaker is proving equally versatile on it. Short in the engine room, Keane employed his veteran striker as a central midfielder against Andy Ritchie's Tykes and if initial results were variable then the experiment was concluded successfully.
"I thought it worked well with Dwight in the middle," said Sunderland's manager. "When I brought him here I knew he'd been playing there for his club and his country. The statistics said that Dwight made more tackles in the World Cup than any other player. We need someone who knows when to sit and when to play the ball forward."
Yorke was able to "sit" as Nyron Nosworthy and Liam Lawrence combined down the Sunderland right to set up Dean Whitehead for the home team's opening goal, eight minutes from time. Chris Brown secured the three points with a header from the substitute Ross Wallace's cross in the 88th minute.
Goals: Whitehead (82) 1-0; Brown (88) 2-0.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Ward; Nosworthy, Varga, Cunningham (Nyatanga, h-t), D Collins; Lawrence, Yorke, Whitehead, Murphy (Wallace, 74); Connolly (Leadbitter, 83), Brown. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Miller.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Colgan; Hassell, Reid, Kay, Williams; Devaney, Togwell, Howard (Healy, 72), McIndoe; Hayes (Nardiello, 84), Richards (Wright, 72). Substitutes not used: Letheren (gk), Heckingbottom.
Referee: N Swarbrick (Lancs).
Booked: Barnsley: Reid.
Man of the match: Connolly.
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