Jermain Defoe reveals the secret ingredient keeping him in the hunt for a place in England's World Cup squad

35-year-old Defoe is fast becoming a mentor figure in Gareth Southgate's youthful squad but insists he is more than able to keep up on the pitch 

Sunday 08 October 2017 13:14
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Defoe remains one of England's first-choice forwards
Defoe remains one of England's first-choice forwards

Jermain Defoe credits "clean living" and his mother's advice for keeping him in the hunt for a World Cup place at the age of 35.

The Bournemouth striker celebrated his birthday on Saturday and is hoping to mark the occasion with a 58th England cap in Lithuania.

Many of his contemporaries are either retired, winding down or firmly out of the international picture. Wayne Rooney, four years Defoe's junior, recently called time on his distinguished Three Lions career.

Defoe is fast becoming a mentor figure in Gareth Southgate's youthful squad but insists he is more than able to keep up on the pitch as he looks to make amends for his omission from the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

And he puts his longevity down to a series of lifestyle choices such which include regular pilates, ice baths, teetotalism and an attempt - not always successful - to embrace a vegan diet.

"When you're in the England squad in your twenties you're realistic, you don't think that at 35 you'll still be in the squad and hopefully getting into a World Cup," he said.

Defoe has returned to the international fold late in his career

"It's clean living. I do the ice baths and the cryotherapy. I do pilates, I do massage. I understand my body a lot more than I did years ago.

"I try to be vegan but I love fish, which is a difficult one. Everyone knows I don't drink alcohol. That's probably why I'm still playing to be honest.

"Maybe it was my mum. As a young kid she used to say a lot of things to me. I remember being at my bedroom window ... we used to live on an estate and my mates used to be there, smoking, drinking, talking to girls.

"As a young lad of course you want to be involved, but she always used to say, 'If you want to become a professional footballer, like you've been telling me since you started talking, then you have to do everything right'. It's about sacrifices.

"There are times when I'm tough on myself. I go to a restaurant and think, 'That chocolate brownie looks nice on the menu', and I'm like, 'No'.

"I know all the sacrifices over the years and you get to this level because of that."

Defoe made his England debut back in 2004

Defoe is driven by his disappointment four years ago, when Roy Hodgson discarded him after his brief Major League Soccer switch to Toronto FC.

"To this day I still feel I should have gone to that World Cup," Defoe said. "I'm not saying I should have started but I know how important it is to play for England and I've always believed I can score goals at this level."

That belief remains and, while the possibility of coaching appeals, the idea of retirement holds less allure. Do not bank on Defoe walking into the sunset any time soon.

"If I feel the same at 37, why not continue?" he said.

"I think that when I stop playing I'm going to miss this - that build-up and having something forward to look forward to at the end of the week, being around the changing room with the lads.

"You've got to snap out of it and look forward to the next game. If I'm still running down the channels like I'm 25 then for me, it doesn't really matter."

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