Saturday nights for Jermain Defoe are usually no more high-octane than spent sat sipping green tea in front of Match of the Day, and such is his aversion to alcohol, he recently asked a restaurant to prepare a white wine sauce without the white wine. But dig a little deeper than the endearingly quirky anecdotes, and there is a more sombre reason behind the teetotal lifestyle that has underpinned his longevity in the game.
The Sunderland forward hopes to add to his impressive career goal tally at Liverpool on Saturday after drawing level with Michael Owen in seventh place on the all-time Premier League scorers' chart when finding the net for the 150th time in the 3-0 victory over Hull City that lifted David Moyes' side off the bottom of the table last week.
Defoe celebrated the milestone with a quiet night in watching Gary Lineker et al discuss his prowess in front of goal. 'Les Ferdinand got me drinking green tea years ago.' He confesses his main vice these days is bubble gum, which he buys by the box-load. The 34-year-old, whose 18 goals make him the second highest scoring Englishman at the highest level in 2016 after the Tottenham forward Harry Kane, has been touted for a return to the international fold for his consistent form with the Wearside club since he returned to this country almost two years ago, following a stint at MLS side Toronto FC.
Defoe says thoughts of retirement remain well in the future thanks to an adherence to a strict diet and fitness regime, allied to his abstinence from alcohol at a time when players' 'refuelling' habits are under increased scrutiny following the polarised public reaction to the publication of photos of Wayne Rooney appearing worse for wear while the England captain was on international duty earlier this month.
The former Tottenham and West Ham forward revealed that his strict stance on alcohol is in part due to his father Jimmy, who died from throat cancer in 2012, being a heavy drinker, and he said: "I don't drink, because I don't think I need to. When I finish playing one day I can say to myself 'you know I did everything right'. That's the time when you can enjoy yourself and, I suppose, drink although I don't think I'll really drink. I don't think I'll want to. I've never said it before, my dad used to drink a lot so that's one of the reasons why I don't. My mum has said over the years 'try not to drink if you can'. I tried alcohol years ago, my sister and my step-dad they love red wine so I had a little taste, but to actually have a drink to get drunk, to have a few drinks, I never do it.
"All along I've tried not to get in that habit of drinking, because you don't need it if you want to keep performing at the highest level for a long time. I went to a restaurant the other day, they had sea bass on the menu with white wine sauce and I actually asked the waitress if I could have the fish without the white wine. She looked at me and probably thought 'what's wrong with a little bit of white wine? You're meant to be an adult'. But I said, please, just tell the chef, no thanks.”
Having been the subject of tabloid headlines over his private life, Defoe admits he is 'no angel', and he is not attempting to preach to his peers over their lifestyle, but he added: "I think you get more out of yourself if you don't drink. I'm not saying I don't do anything wrong. There's loads of things I do wrong - I think people will have read in the papers. But I do try to do the right things. If you look after yourself and you don't drink, you eat the right things, you have rests, you sleep then you feel ready for the game at the weekend and you've given yourself the best chance because you've not gone out drinking."
There are also regular yoga sessions to help control breathing, while Defoe's diet includes a daily dose of salmon, increased carbohydrates towards the end of the week, a small mountain of vegetables and regular smoothies of kale and spinach. Caffeine comes on only on matchdays. "It's all about hydration, electrolytes. Sometimes, it gets on my nerves," he confesses of his impressive regimen.
"I don't really think about age to be honest," he adds. "The way the game is now, I understand my body a lot more. I know what to eat, when to train hard, when to have a day off or tone it down a little bit. Even the little things like when to get a massage or have an ice bath. I know exactly what I have to do so I get myself into a routine each week. I ask a lot of questions, I speak to the doctor, I speak to the nutritionists and the sports scientists. I ask a lot of questions on stuff and to be honest, I just want to continue playing. I love playing football. I don't feel like I am 34. I don't feel like I am getting older. Even towards the end of games, I don't feel fatigued, not one bit. After 90 minutes, I still feel explosive, I can press people, close them down without being out of breath."
So how does sugar-laden bubble gum find a place in such an otherwise picture perfect lifestyle? Going into more detail about his guilty pleasure, he added: "I go to the Metro Centre (shopping complex) and there's this stall with sweets everywhere, big bubble gums, which stay sweet for about ten seconds, then you spit them out. I went in and asked the lady 'can I take the whole box?' She said 'no, we have to order them' so I scooped up as many as I could. The next time I visited, she had two big boxes for me in the back. Now I sit there at home, eating bubble gum."Reuse content