Welcome back to the latest series of articles from Last Word on Football. This time we look back on the footballers who many class as Premier League legends. Players who wowed the crowd, frustrated the opposition, scored great goals and inspired their team to glory.
Today we look at Jermain Defoe, the ex-Tottenham Hotspur hitman who was the highest European goalscorer before Harry Kane took over that record. The England striker has played for a number of Premier League clubs but has also played abroad at Toronto FC, and now plays his football in Scotland for Rangers.
Premier League Legends: Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe began his senior career at West Ham United. He would make 93 Premier League appearances there, scoring 29 goals. The player now regrets the way in which he parted ways with the club after they were relegated.
Nevertheless, West Ham were an important club in Defoe’s career after joining them as a 16-year-old. This is where he learnt his trade.
One stand out goal during his time was against Manchester United in 2001. On 64 minutes he headed past Fabien Bathez to score the only goal of the match. This played a part in killing off United’s title hopes that season.
Defoe took the record from Martin Chivers after scoring 23 European goals at Tottenham. He has been such a clinical striker throughout his career but was especially prolific at Spurs where he scored 90 out of his total of 162 goals.
Few players and indeed teams were as prolific when Spurs beat Wigan 9-1. Defoe contributed five in this thrilling match. Many of his goals in this match were textbook finishes; Defoe is so good at stealing a few yards before a precise strike into the bottom corner.
Jermain Defoe and His Discipline
Despite his stellar goalscoring record, his disciplinary record is something that more reflects his sometimes fiery temperament. He has two reds and 40 yellow cards in the league.
One of those yellow cards was for a supposed bite on Javier Mascherano. At the time, Defoe suggested that:
“This has been blown out of all proportion. When the West Ham player fouled me I reacted in a bit of a mischievous way, my character is a little like that at times” (Via the Guardian).
One of those red cards was on his second return at Spurs, against his old club Portsmouth.
Three Spells Under Harry Redknapp
The England striker had three different spells under Harry Redknapp; he played for Redknapp twice at Spurs and once at Portsmouth. Again he had a good record in the league with 14 goals across 30 appearances.
Furthermore, he gathered more accolades to his name at Portsmouth. He was the first Pompey player to score in each of his first five Fratton Park matches.
Three Seasons at Sunderland
Yet another record that Defoe had was that he scored on his first appearance for every club he had played for. This only lasted until he played for Sunderland.
However, this barren start would give rise to a fruitful period in the North East for Defoe.
After his debut season at Sunderland, he would go on to score 15 league goals in two back-to-back seasons.
The most special of those was definitely the volley in the Tyne and Wear Derby. It was a fierce volley that will be remembered for years to come.
But, that is not quite what Defoe had envisioned when he struck the ball with his weaker foot:
“I didn’t expect to score that goal, though. Left foot. The only reason I shot was because I was tired!
“I just remember the ball came up and I just thought ‘I am not going to control that, I’m knackered.”
“I hit it and as soon as it left my foot I was like ‘oh my God!’
“I was crying like a baby” (Via Chronicle Live).
No Cherry on Top for Jermain Defoe
Defoe has scored in 17 consecutive premier league seasons for five different clubs. He finished this record in his second season at AFC Bournemouth.
When Sunderland were relegated, Defoe sought to join another Premier League club in June 2017.
He joined Bournemouth for a second time, after going on loan there from West Ham where he banged in 18 goals in 29 league appearances for the Cherries.
Since joining Bournemouth, Defoe has only scored four league goals. It is a testament to the player that this is the only club that he hasn’t reached a double-figure total; he has always been a consistent goalscorer.
Defoe has taken up a new challenge at Rangers, where goals flow freely even as reaches the latter stages of his career. His story is not yet over, and perhaps this may entail one last hurrah in the Premier League.