Defoe tired of Owen talk

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The Independent Football

With five goals in his last three England internationals, Jermain Defoe thought he might have silenced talk of Michael Owen.

Yet still it remains. Before every squad announcement, with every goal. England's fourth highest goalscorer captures attention.

In an ideal world, Defoe would just brush it off. But it hurts. And it bothers him.

"It does, yes, a little bit," he said.

"It's like if my name gets mentioned Michael Owen's has got to get mentioned as well. That is sometimes frustrating.

"Michael Owen is a great player but it is not that if I'm in the squad he's not, or that if he is in the squad, I'm not.

"It would be nice to get away from it."

It is easy to see why Defoe has become so frustrated.

The 25-year-old has not only been in outstanding form for Tottenham, he also scored both England goals in Amsterdam last month when Fabio Capello's side roared back to almost win a game that looked beyond them at half-time.

And, nagging away at the back of his mind must be fear. In 2006, Defoe was called up to the England squad as cover for Wayne Rooney, who was trying to recover from a broken metatarsal.

He spent 10 days with Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad, only to be made to pack his bags and head home when Rooney declared his fitness.

"I get reminded by everyone," he said. "I will never forget it. It seems like yesterday. It is so clear in my mind.

"It was really hard because I actually travelled with the squad to Germany, then I had to go home.

"I suppose it made me stronger but I want to make sure I play this time round."

If Defoe keeps going at the present rate he has no need to worry.

The former West Ham star has already found the net on four occasions for Spurs and with Emile Heskey struggling to gain a regular place at Aston Villa, could even gain a starting spot for Saturday's friendly Slovenia at Wembley.

It certainly would be a rarity for Defoe, who has not scored any of his 10 international goals when Wayne Rooney has been on the pitch.

Those statistics seem to back up the theory that Defoe and Rooney cannot play together.

Given Rooney is one of the major components in Fabio Capello's World Cup planning, it is a theory Defoe is anxious to rebuff.

"I have played with Wayne a few times now," he said. "He is a great player who likes to get a lot of touches on the ball.

"In that sense he is similar to Robbie Keane and my partnership with him is great. I don't mind staying behind a main striker, that's for sure."

Defoe might have been joined in the England squad by Ledley King this afternoon given Capello has had to call up cover for John Terry and Wes Brown, who are both suffering from minor knocks.

When King was released barely a day after being called up for the matches against Slovenia and the Ukraine last March, Capello did say he was not completely ruling the 28-year-old out of his plans.

Yet King's long-standing knee injury, which prevents him from being able to train properly, does seem to have counted against him given Bolton's Gary Cahill has been called up instead, just as he was for the trip to Kazakhstan in June.

There can be no other explanation for, as Defoe points out, his Spurs captain is still one of the most accomplished defenders around.

"You want your best players in a major tournament and Ledley is certainly one of those," said Defoe.

"He still has the desire to play for England. If he got a call I know he would be delighted.

"When he is out on the pitch, his presence alone makes a huge difference."

It is difficult to imagine a perfectionist like Capello placing his faith in King when the defender could not practise any set pieces or defensive drills as he continues his solo work in the gym and swimming pool.

"I don't know how he does it," said Defoe.

"Everyone at Spurs understands Ledley cannot train because his knees will swell up. Harry Redknapp is used to it now and can understand how he uses the physios every day.

"Ledley is a quiet lad but he loves his football and sometimes you look at him and know he is so frustrated.

"He wants to train but he just can't do it.

"It must make him look forward to the game on a weekend even more though, because to perform the way he does is unbelievable."