Jermain Defoe's Portsmouth future was in serious doubt last night after he was first left out of Tony Adams' squad and then reinstated to the substitutes' bench for the game against Arsenal. The move comes as Tottenham are understood to be preparing a bid worth around £15m for the player despite their manager Harry Redknapp's protestations that Spurs cannot afford him.
Defoe, 26, is understood to be furious that he was replaced in the team by David Nugent, who started his first match of the season for Portsmouth in their 1-0 defeat. One of the advantages of Portsmouth selling Defoe back to Tottenham, whom he left last January, would be to settle the outstanding payments on the £7m fee that they agreed for him.
Although the size of the deal is out of keeping with the Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's promise that the club would not be spending big next month, it reflects Redknapp's growing desperation to sign a striker capable of scoring goals. The Independent revealed that Redknapp had a £6m bid for Craig Bellamy turned down by West Ham on Christmas Eve and the Spurs manager has not given up hope of signing the Welsh striker. His side's defeat to West Bromwich Albion yesterday leaves them 16th, level on points with Stoke who are in the relegation zone.
It is understood that yesterday Defoe was initially told that he would not be in the squad at all to face Arsenal at the Emirates, but Adams later changed his mind and brought the player on as a substitute towards the end of the match. Adams admitted that Defoe had been angry with the decision.
Adams said: "Jermain was really annoyed with me for leaving him out and I wouldn't want it any other way.
"It was tactical, exactly like I played at Liverpool and he may have a point. He could quite easily turn round to me and say 'You got it wrong today, boss, because you lost'. But it's not easy being a manager and you have to make difficult decisions.
"He's a fantastic player and scores great goals butwe are struggling with a little bit of a balance and away at Liverpool and Arsenal I chose to keep him on the bench. There was no other reason. Speculate all you want. I have had no offers for Jermain Defoe. Not one.
"I'm determined to hold on to all of them. But on the other hand I'm determined to hang on to people who want to play for Portsmouth. We're in a scrap with 14 other clubs and if you are not trying to win games for the football club, if your head has been turned, then I don't want you around. But no one has come to see me, no one wants away."
* Jermain Defoe has scored 17 goals in 34 games for Portsmouth after being signed by Harry Redknapp from Tottenham for £7m last February.
* Portsmouth have only lost in two of the games in which Defoe has scored.
* Defoe has doubled his England tally since the move, now at six in 32 games.