My #1: Defoe

“It’s Pantilimon, Fletcher’s jump, here’s Jermain Defoeeeee! Oh, my goodness me, what a goal!” Remember that moment? On the stroke of half time, people already heading for their pints. Free kick in our own penalty area with less than a minute to go. Nerves starting to build up as we headed for a cagey second half. The ball bounces perfectly on his “weaker foot” with only a glimpse of the net on show; goal! In that moment nothing mattered. The memories of the wildest celebrations and the biggest grins for 48,000 Mackems in the biggest game of our season. Beers went flying, and the best part, of course, was the sudden silence in the away end; the shock, the disbelief after such a breath-taking goal from my favourite player.

I still remember the feeling every time he played. Wherever the ball was on the field I still remember asking myself the same question: “Where’s Defoe.” I’m certain all our players wondered the same thing when looking for a pass. He was the player to pass to in all situations, he could turn a game around in a split second, from any angle. Even in a very average Sunderland team, he would find a way, against some of the best defenders in the world. Jermain Defoe.

Currently the seventh top scorer in Premier League history and deservedly so. Does that stat alone not already tell you how consistently brilliant he is? The fact that we had a player of his calibre in our team during such a difficult spell still amazes me. The term “clinical” is often over used in modern football, but if it was ever needed to describe a player, Jermain Defoe just about does the word justice. Let’s not forget the fact that he was in the latter stages of his career when we signed him, re-joining the most competitive division in world football after an impressive spell at Toronto. He was virtually a forgotten man after he left Tottenham but joining Sunderland must have been one of the best decisions he’d ever made.

Obviously, nothing lasts forever. After we were relegated to the Championship it was inevitable that he would leave, and it would be obscene for a second-tier team to pay such high wages. Who can blame him for leaving? He didn’t expect to be nearly fourth choice striker at Bournemouth, and the fact that he is seems bizarre. A player who only ever wanted to be on the team sheet at all times. Every story has a happy ever after. “I’m not playing football at the minute, so we’ll see what happens” were the honest words of Jermain Defoe when speaking upon a potential move in the January window.