OPPORTUNITY awaits in Australia for Caribbean footballers.
So said TT’s recently crowned Australian League (A-League) champion coach Dwight Yorke, who called on committed West Indian footballers to explore new markets to develop their craft as young professionals.
Yorke, 50, made these remarks during an online interaction with TT Football Association (TTFA) media officer Shaun Fuentes on Sunday.
In May, the ex-national captain and Manchester United legend was appointed to his first role as manager of A-League club Macarthur FC. Five months later, Yorke led his debut team to the Australia Cup title.
In the process, he steered the club to their first Cup title since joining the A-League three years ago. This was also Yorke’s first piece of silverware as head coach.
In anticipation of the 2023 season, Macarthur FC boosted its defence by signing Bajan defensive midfielder Mario Williams for the 2023 season. Williams, 30, was a suggested signing by Yorke’s ex-teammate Russell Latapy, who also serves as the club’s assistant coach.
Latapy, another former TT standout, coached Barbados for just over three years, but stepped down in May, to join his ex-2006 World Cup teammate in a leadership role at Macarthur FC.
Yorke said Williams’ signing is evident the TT pair is interested in fielding “serious” talent from this part of the world and potentials should seize such an opportunity.
“We have a clear understanding, coming from the Caribbean, the lack of opportunity that players are given. This might be a good opportunity for players to look elsewhere.
“A lot of people do get bogged down when they want to go to Europe. They might want to go to the Major League Soccer (USA) or just may not have gotten that break as yet.
“Australia is another avenue they can look at. With us (Yorke, Latapy) being here, we are open to ideas to giving fellow West Indian players an opportunity. But you have to meet the criteria, it’s not a token gesture.
“You have to be someone who would improve our team. Hopefully, there would be many more. If you’re good enough we will invite you. That’s part of my role here as head coach, to make those decisions.”
Yorke said he’d never seen Williams play prior but trusted Latapy’s judgement after they held discussions on the new season, and what would be required for an improved performance in search of the coveted A-League title.
“Russell suggested that Mario was a player that, given an opportunity, he can do well in this league. I have to trust my assistant, his judgement, because I respect his view on players.
“I got along with that and backed him in giving Mario that opportunity. The transition from the Caribbean to a place like Australia is going to take some time.
“It was a gamble we were prepared to take. Hopefully, with the right structure, training, physio and therapy here, we can get him up to speed. There’s no doubt he may play a significant part in our success going forward.
“We are open-minded that people from the West Indies need that break and we are prepared to give them that but there is criteria to be met,” he added.
Although the team is still developing, Yorke credited his assistant coach Latapy, and all his staff, for going the extra mile and aiding Macarthur FC to their first Cup win.
Yorke and the “Little Magician” have rich history representing TT and plan to write a similar story in their new roles as coaches.
On signing Russell on to his coaching staff, Yorke said, “Russell is crucial. My research over the years as I embarked on being a manager was to make sure you bring in the correct people alongside you. The backroom staff is a key factor in your success.
“We’re close friends but from a football perspective, he’s ticked all the boxes. He’s done everything in the game, played at the highest level, achieved high awards, won trophies and had 15 years as a manger/coach.
“So that experience is vital to me. From a tactical point of view. Russell is one of the best players, if not the best. He is one of the best persons I could ask to be next to me as well as a trustworthy friend. H
“He is significant to my success but also I have other people who play major roles like my physio, strength and conditioning and the whole backroom staff plays the role to our success. Russ is huge for me going forward and he will always be my right-hand man.”
When Yorke took the coach position earlier this year, he had to step down as Manchester United’s global ambassador. He confirmed the English club still shares a close relationship with him despite his decision to coach in the A-League.
Looking ahead at the new season, he said there is still much work to be done.
“We’re still not quite the finished article but the progress has been encouraging. Winning the cup gave us a base to go one from there and should give us confidence going forward.
“We need to raise our level here as expectation has gone up. The players understand that and know they need to keep working hard which has always been a focal point of my playing career.
“You have to healthy, strong and fit. The workload we are asking from them they’re getting better.”