His boots were made for walking

Author: 
Vivek Chaudhary
Date Published: 
1998-08-23
Source: 
Guardian

Vivek Chaudhary finds the home faithful angry at destination rather than departure

Before yesterday Aston Villa fans had their own tribute song to the man who once wore the claret-and-blue No. 10 shirt.

To the tune of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" they would chant: "Start spreading the news, He's playing today, I wanna see him score again, Dwight Yorke, Dwight Yorke."

Perhaps it was a prophetic choice of song, given Sinatra's original opening line: "Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today".

Prior to the match the Villa Park Tannoy system broadcast an interview with the manager John Gregory, who said he had sold Yorke because the player's heart was not in the club. It was a view shared by many outside Villa Park yesterday, who appeared more resentful of the fact that he had gone to Manchester United than the fact that he had actually left.

"If he had gone to any other club, apart from Birmingham that is, then it wouldn't have been so bad," said Nathan Sawyers, aged 16. "Everybody hates Manchester United. Yorke had been with us for nine years and he should have stuck with us. We're capable of winning things as well. People here would have killed for Dwight Yorke, we loved him a lot."

Though never a prolific goalscorer, Yorke had embedded himself in the hearts of the Villa faithful, not surprising given that they have had to put up with the spitting Savo Milosevic, an uncertain David Unsworth and the tempestuous Stan Collymore who has promised much but has so far delivered little.

In Yorke's pearl-white dazzling smile they had a player they could rely on. He played and entertained with refreshing joy and energy, and given a choice between the delightful Dwight and the stroppy Stan it is not difficult to see why the fans thought of Yorke as one of their own.

"He did give his all to the club whenever he played," said Peter Edwards. "We thought of him as a Brummie, as one of our own. He was very good with the fans and the club did make a big effort to try and hold on to him. I don't think selling him reflects a lack of ambition on Villa's part, because if a player really wants to go then you can't stop him, it's impossible."

A poll in a local newspaper prior to Yorke's departure found that 80 per cent of Aston Villa fans agreed with selling him. For a forward who scored 12 Premiership goals last season, a transfer fee of #12.6 million made good economic sense and even the most loyal fan could see this.

As the teams ran out for yesterday's game, most of the fans vented their anger on Manchester United rather than the club chairman. "Stand up if you hate Man U," they chanted.

As is the way with recently departed footballers, Yorke and his new team will receive a hostile reception when they visit Villa Park in December, whatever the forward once meant to the club and the fans.

One thing you will not hear at the match from three sides of the ground at least is the second verse to the song the Villa fans once sang for Yorke, which went: "If he can score from here, He'll score from anywhere, It's up to you, Dwight Yorke, Dwight Yorke."