Jermain Defoe was in Toronto the last time he spoke to Roy Hodgson. It was curt and devastating. Defoe was told he would be missing out another major tournament, this time the World Cup. It was then he decided to come home.
“He just said, ‘It’s a difficult one, I’m leaving you, Ashley Cole and Michael Carrick out. I’m going with younger players.’ It was as simple as that. I was disappointed and I was upset.”
Defoe is back in England, with a manager who wants him and with a club desperate for a hero and a lift. He is 32 now but insists there is a fire burning, to become a Sunderland legend and to prove Hodgson made a judgement call too early. There is no suggestion that he will give up on international football.
“No. I still think I’ve got a lot to offer,” he said. “I still feel sharp. I’ve always worked hard and I still feel like I’ve got a lot of goals left in me. I was disappointed and upset [to be left out of the squad to Brazil] but at the same time I still want to play for my country. I still want to score goals for England. We will see what happens.
“Have I spoken to him since? No. No. I don’t think I need to, to be honest. What am I meant to say to him? Why? I had the conversation when I wasn’t included. At the end of the day, Roy knows what he gets from me. He can look at my England record. He knows. I don’t think I really need to have a conversation with the manager about leaving me out or anything else.”
Defoe would not have played again for England if he had stayed in Toronto. He insists he enjoyed his time in MLS, where he scored 11 times in 18 games, but five-hour flights to games were a shock.
The conversation with Gus Poyet, the Sunderland head coach at the end of last month, was a pleasanter one. Poyet wanted an injection of genuine quality. To tempt Defoe he has become the best-paid player in Sunderland’s history, but it is a statement signing.
“I think it helps when you know the manager,” he added. “He was with Juande Ramos at Tottenham and he was on the coaching side of things and he was a good coach, someone who has done well, someone that knows the game. It does play a big factor. I was happy with the conversation.
“He spoke about how he wanted to play, other players and Gus said to me, ‘If you come up here and score goals you’ll love it, trust me.’
“The whole thing [in Toronto] was different. One of the strangest things was the reporters in the locker room. I used to forget and just come out of the shower. I would be like: ‘Oooof’.
“I had never experienced anything like that before. I remember my first game against Seattle I came out on a red carpet and fireworks. I was like, ‘Wow.’ Someone got tackled and everyone in the crowd jumped up and waved yellow cards. Everything was just different.”
Now is the desire to prove he can outscore those who have moved ahead of him on Hodgson’s radar, players like Harry Kane, Saido Berahino and Danny Ings.
“I’ve missed the Premier League,” aid Defoe. “I have to [guarantee goals]. It’s as simple as that. I believe I will score goals. I’ve had a good rest. Hopefully, we can go on a good run now to the end of the season.
“I have watched that season when Kevin Phillips got 30 goals at Sunderland on Premier League Years. You think ‘Wow, I would love to do something similar’. If you do that you know what it will be like. Can I be a legend in three years here? I will try my best.”
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