The World Cup finals may still be five months away but already an England player is having trouble with penalties. Jermain Defoe, the Spurs striker, has been informed he is no longer his side's preferred taker from 12 yards.
Defoe has 16 goals this season including five in one game against a hapless Wigan defence and Harry Redknapp, his manager, believes there is no one better in England when it comes to instinctive finishing.
That does not apply when the ball is dead and the pressure is on, however. Defoe saw a penalty saved in Saturday's 2-2 draw with Leeds United in the FA Cup fourth round, with the League One side's main goalscorer, Jermaine Beckford, upstaging him with a perfectly-taken 90th-minute equaliser from the same spot.
It was not his first miss this season either and as a result either Robbie Keane, Niko Kranjcar or Tom Huddlestone will take over penalty duties, starting with tonight's White Hart Lane derby with Fulham.
"He's a great goalscorer but his penalties haven't been so great," Redknapp said. "When you place them, unless you can be accurate and stick 'em up there like the boy Beckford did, the keeper often guesses right and goes the right way. The one Beckford took was world-class, right up in the top corner.
"I haven't told Jermain yet but I will have a word with him. He would want to carry on because he loves scoring goals. You know what he's like. But the one at Everton was in the 90th minute to win the game and it's a different pressure. When you are 3-0 up it's easy, you walk up and smash them in the back of the net all day."
Penalty shoot-out failures have long been England's Achilles' heel in major tournaments and it would be a surprise if Defoe was not on the plane to South Africa in the summer.
Fabio Capello, the England manager, is a meticulous character who leaves little to chance but Redknapp was not an advocate of extra penalty practice. "Nothing can replicate what you do in a real game," he said. "It's not the same. It's the pressure. It's like going out on the putting green and putting all day. When it means something it ain't quite the same."
Roman Pavlyuchenko is likely to miss the Fulham game with a groin injury. Redknapp was adamant the Russia international, who had come off the bench to score his side's second against Leeds, would not be leaving this month, even though the striker is desperate for first-team football elsewhere. "His future is here," Redknapp said. "If he plays well and if he works hard and gets the opportunity to play then it's up to him. When he came on he did ever so well and it was a great goal. He's a good player, I've always said that, as he has fantastic ability.
"Whether or not he wants to be here, that's the key. I don't know if he does. His people have been trying to move him for quite a while but we want him to stay. Unless we get the right offer he won't be leaving."
That will be a blow to Pavlyuchenko, who is clearly intent on leaving White Hart Lane. "I've already heard lots of times from Redknapp that I'm going to play, but I still remain sitting on the bench," Pavlyuchenko told yesterday's Russian newspaper Sport Express. "I don't think that goal [against Leeds United on Saturday] will change anything. In any case, I hope it doesn't stop me leaving Tottenham."
Defoe has some sympathy with Pavlyuchenko. "When you are not playing it is difficult," he said. "You wake up in the morning and feel there is nothing to prepare for. When you are playing you come to training and prepare right, you're happy and buzzing. It must be difficult for Pav. He hasn't figured much this season and he came on and did well to get the goal against Leeds."Reuse content