Ex-Sunderland defender could have been a track star

DeAndre Yedlin on the run for Sunderland last season
DeAndre Yedlin on the run for Sunderland last season
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DeAndre Yedlin was once a high school sprinter – now he’s in a hurry to get to the Premier League.

Yedlin joined Newcastle United from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, after a year on loan at Sunderland.

It’s a strength of mine, and I try use it.

The 23-year-old has already wreaked havoc in the Championship with his pace, but would love to be competing in the top flight again after his time on Wearside.

Yedlin, preparing for tomorrow’s home game against Brenford, could well have gone into athletics in his native USA.

The attack-minded defender ran the 100, 200 and 400 metres, and competed in the long jump, at school in Seattle.

Asked what sports he took part in growing up, the USA international said: “Soccer and track. I also played baseball when I was younger and (American) football for a year, but I was too small.

“I played basketball. I ran the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and the long jump.”

If Yedlin did try the 100 metres now, his time would be very respectable.

“I don’t remember my times,” he said. “My grandparents have all my records. I’m not sure what time I could run now. I haven’t ran the 100 metres since I was 14.

“I haven’t ran track since then. It’s just something I’ve been blessed with since I was little, I guess. It’s a strength of mine, and I try use it.”

Yedlin’s pace helped him forge a career in football, the game he fell in love with thanks to his uncle, his “big brother”.

“I was raised by my grandparents,” said Yedlin, who was used as a forward by USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for this week’s friendly against New Zealand.

“Their son, my uncle, lived in the house as well and he was kind of like my big brother.

“He played soccer when he was younger, and I wanted to be like him.

“It was always my sport. I played four sports growing up, but I stuck with soccer.

“When I was 12 years old, I got called into the youth national team. From then on, I worked my way up. It was just a sport that stuck and a sport that I fell in love with.

“I played for the Seattle Sounders academy when I was 17 and went to university for a year and a half.”

Yedlin keeps a close eye on Major League Soccer, which is booming.

“It’s definitely growing in America,” he said.

“You have some big-name players. Even if you don’t know a lot about soccer, you know them.

“The likes of Kaka, David Villa and Robbie Keane are coming in. They’re really giving the league a name.

“I think it’s growing rapidly. People are coming out in numbers. It’s getting bigger and bigger.

“In my first two seasons at Seattle, I think we averaged 40,000. It’s still not the biggest sport, but it’s getting a lot bigger.”

Yedlin crossed the Atlantic early last year to sign for Tottenham, but he feels the MLS is quickly catching up with the European leagues in terms of quality.

“I think America still has a view that if you play in Europe, you’re automatically a better player,” he said. “I don’t think that’s necesarily the case.”

“I think the MLS has room to grow to get to the level of the Premier League.”