Villas-Boas hails ‘immense’ Defoe
After a shaky start to the season for Tottenham under new manager Andre Villas-Boas - in which they picked up only one point from a possible nine- the north London outfit have turned things around, winning their last three Premier League games thanks to the form of Jermain Defoe.
The diminutive 29-year-old striker has scored four league goals in six starts and firmly established himself as the lone striker in AVB’s side. Despite his lack of height and slender frame, especially in comparison to Emannuel Adebayor who previous boss Harry Redknapp relied on so heavily last season, Defoe has reveled in his new role and drawn praise from the manager.
“He has been immense for the team," Villas-Boas said. "He's getting continuous opportunities that maybe he didn't have in the past so I think he is enjoying it a bit more. He is looking extremely happy. We have to be very grateful for what he has been doing for the team. For a striker goals are decisive and he has four in the Premier League. He's not far off being top scorer and he has been creating so much.”
Defoe’s talent has never been in doubt, and he impressed from an early age, scoring 41 goals in 105 league and cup appearances for West Ham (and 18 in 29 on a season loan at Bournemouth) before securing a £6million move to Spurs in January 2004. Then manager David Pleat said: “I can't think of a British striker at his age who has achieved as much in such a short space of time. His goal record for a 21-year-old is quite exceptional.”
In his first full season with the club (2004-2005), Defoe achieved a scoring rate of a goal every two games (22 goals in 44 games in all competitions) and was voted player of the year by Spurs season ticket holders. However, the England striker failed to build on this start as he faced competition from Robbie Keane and Mido the following season and only scored nine goals in 38 appearances (23 starts and 15 substitute appearances).
In the 2006-2007 season, Defoe did not fare much better, just reaching double figures with 10 league goals in 34 appearances. The arrival of Darren Bent for £16.5million in the summer of 2007 put increased pressure on Defoe to perform with less playing time, and this proved too much – leading to a £6million move to Portsmouth in January 2008, reunited with former boss Harry Redknapp who had given him his debut at West Ham.
Defoe spent just one year at Portsmouth where he thrived as the first choice striker, scoring 14 goals in 30 appearances before Spurs came knocking in January 2009, with Harry Redknapp (who took over the Lilywhites in October 2008) desperate to sign his former player- which he did in a reported £15.75million deal.
In his first full season (2009-2010) back with Spurs, Defoe displayed his ever-growing maturity and consistency in front of goal; hailed by Redknapp as the best finisher in England as he scored 24 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions, including three hat tricks.
Just as he was proving himself as one of the Premier League’s most clinical and consistent strikers, Defoe once more struggled for form in a squad rotation system. Competing against Peter Crouch Roman Pavlyuchenko, he endured a nightmare start to the 2010-2011 season, not scoring a league goal until March. Disappointingly for Defoe and Spurs, he did not fare much better for the remainder of the season, as he ended up with just four league goals in 22 league games and just nine goals in 30 appearances in all competitions.
Defoe’s struggles continued into the next season with the arrival of Emmanuel Adebayor, and he spent a lot of time on the bench. Yet again in his stop-start career, Jermain Defoe found himself out of the spotlight. Hard working, talented, but unable to catch a break and establish himself as one of the first names on the team sheet.
Internationally, Defoe has not had much more luck, despite an impressive scoring rate of 17 goals in 51 appearances. Given his debut in 2004 by Sven Goran Eriksson, Defoe featured regularly in World Cup qualifying games and impressed for England. Nonetheless, he was not picked for the 2006 World Cup, with Theo Walcott being preferred to him. He finally appeared in his first major tournament in the 2010 World Cup and scored an important goal against Slovenia to put his country through to the last 16. But as so often with Defoe, he failed to force himself into the starting eleven in the following two years and played just 13 minutes as a substitute at Euro 2012. Remarkably, Jermain Defoe has 32 appearances as a substitute, a record number for an England player.
The start of this season has been extremely promising for Defoe, who has thrived as the main man under AVB. Aided by the pace and width of Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the wings, supported by the power of Moussa Dembélé and Sandro in the middle of the park, Defoe has been exceptional up front- starting every game for Spurs in the absence of Emmanuel Adebayor through injury. It remains to be seen whether a fully fit Adebayor will displace Defoe from Spurs’s starting eleven, but if the latter can maintain his current form, it is unlikely.
We are witnessing a poacher in his prime. A 29-year-old finally getting the game time and recognition his talent deserves. For the sake of the national team, one can only hope that Jermain Defoe grabs his opportunity with both hands and leaves behind his bridesmaid tag.