Islanders depend on Dwight to make up for 16-year hitch

Former Old Trafford playboy becomes a talisman as T&T launch their mission implausible

Dwight Yorke admits it is not just the outside world that struggles to regard him as a leader. He does so himself. "I'm the one everyone looks up to," says the former Manchester United striker who will proudly wear the armband for Trinidad and Tobago in next month's World Cup.

Icon? Undoubtedly. Playboy? Well, that's hardly deniable given his chronicled tabloid exploits. But captain and role model? That's harder to accept. "I've played at the top level and won a lot of things," Yorke explains. "People respect that. I never saw myself as a leader but in this team everyone sees me as a leader and that's why the captaincy was handed to me, because of my experience.

"Of course, I know what it takes to win games and obviously I can score goals. So if there is anyone the team need to turn to for experience and guidance they don't need to look any further. Being the captain I will be arguably the proudest man - at 34 this is pretty much the icing on the cake."

And the cherry too. Indeed, Yorke can hardly believe what is happening right now. The Soca Warriors - as the team from the tiny twin-island republic are known - have finally made it to a World Cup. They came close in 1974 and even closer in 1990, when Yorke was in the team. "I must say I felt that opportunity had gone," Yorke recalls. "Sixteen years ago I was very close when we were edged out by the United States. I was only a kid and it was very hard to accept."

Yorke actually retired from international football in 2002. Twelve months ago it looked, after a desperately unhappy time at Blackburn Rovers and then on to Birmingham City, that he had no future at all in the game. After 17 years in England he took himself off to Australia, to play for Sydney FC for what looked like an easy buck and an even easier life.

"I am sure a lot of people would have thought that would be the last of me," Yorke says. "Then at the same time I came out of retirement for my country. I thought I'd give it one more chance. The last eight months have been unbelievable. Going to Sydney, winning the grand final [the equivalent of the Premiership title] and of course qualifying for the World Cup."

That was achieved through a thrilling qualifying campaign which ended with a turbulent play-off against Bahrain last November. Yorke's influence was crucial, but so too was that of the coach, Leo Beenhakker. "His appointment was a masterstroke," says Yorke. "Beenhakker came in and gave the guys belief and everyone has responded. We have made huge strides, and that's down to the manager and the staff. I don't want to reveal too much, but he has a way of getting through to the players. He knows we have a talented bunch and a very athletic team and it's just having that belief."

Beenhakker, a 62-year-old Dutchman who led his country to the 1990 World Cup and has also coached Real Madrid and Ajax, took over after three games with T & T bottom of their group with one point. He recognised the importance of Yorke, played him behind the main striker and built the team around him.

In the past Yorke, who cost £12.6m and scored 64 goals in 151 games for United, would have reacted to that responsibility by trying to do too much. When he was winning that unique treble, including the European Cup, in 1999, he thought, "I could take that and instil it in the team. I felt we had a very good chance before 2002 [World Cup] but we didn't do too well."

Now they have their opportunity. Last night they faced Wales, in Graz, Austria, as part of their preparations for meeting England in Nüremberg on 15 June, sandwiched between games against Sweden and Paraguay. Yorke knows it is a tough group.

"We are only a country of 1.3 million, but I've played in the best team in Europe and there are times when even though you're the best team it doesn't guarantee the result," he says. "I've seen upsets so many times. What I can guarantee is we will give 100 per cent every time. The manager will get us to play extremely well and make it difficult to beat us. People are expecting us to be whipping boys but we're going to make sure our opponents know they're in a fight."

Yorke assesses the dangers. Sweden are "a tricky customer", providing "as tough a start as you could ask for", while Para-guay "are probably more suited to us because they'll want to play the game. We've been brought up to play the Brazilian way and they're in that category".

As for England, Yorke recently spent six weeks training again with United following the end of the Australian season - he has one year left on his contract - and to maintain his fitness, having patched up his differences with Sir Alex Ferguson. "Gary Neville was marking me in training and it was, 'This is what he's going to do to you' and, 'This is what I am going to do to him'. Rio [Ferdinand] and [Wayne] Rooney too. We will probably be texting and phoning during the World Cup.

"Everyone is expecting us to get beaten, but the one thing I don't want is to be coming off humiliated - five, six, seven-nil. I want us to walk out there and make sure we compete extremely well. And if we do that, who knows?"

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
techResearchers recover 100s of nude photos from second-hand smartphones
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice