Attention pricked while surfing channels by the sight of Dwight Yorke picking his “fantasy XI”, I decided to watch on last Friday night, as the former Aston Villa, Manchester United and Sunderland striker scribbled distinguished name after distinguished name on a white-board with a black marker pen.
Part of the intrigue, I have to admit, was his rather eccentric spelling of fairly straightforward names such as “Coley”, which became Colie. Yorke barely attempted to try to get ‘McGrath’ right, merely ending it with an indecipherable scribble. As he went across the team, left-back to right-back, from left midfield to right, names such as Gary Neville, Denis Irwin, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Dave Beckham filled the board. So far, so predictable. But then, after selecting Andy Cole – or Colie – as his tenth name on the teamsheet, he introduced some drama to the proceedings when he suggested to his companions in the studio – “Fenners” (presenter John Fendley) and “Merse” (Paul Merson) – that they might be a little surprised by his 11th and final choice to fill the hole between the striker and midfield, since this particular player had never played in England.
And yet this player, “Yorkie” assured them, was “technically better than even Scholesy”. It was, of course, Russell Latapy, Yorke’s best friend and former team-mate in the Trinidad and Tobago international side. “If he had been English or Brazilian, you would have been talking about him for years and years,” said Yorke. As thoughts turn to next weekend’s Scottish Cup final between Hibs and Celtic, it provides us with another opportunity to wonder what might have been had the little magician showed a little more circumspection in the run-up to the clash between these teams at the same stage in 2001.
Instead, he decided to show his pal Yorkie the sights of Edinburgh on a late night tour of the city’s nightspots, during which he managed to be stopped by the police for drink driving, after he was spotted driving on the wrong side of the road.
When he didn’t turn up for training the next day, he was told by the then manager Alex McLeish to stay away from the club for the rest of the season. It meant there would be no Scottish Cup final appearance for someone who was possibly more central to Hibs’ chances of finally lifting the trophy than even Leigh Griffiths is this time around.