Evergreen Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe admits he is desperate to capitalise on his second chance with England by earning a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Defoe’s decision to leave the Premier League for Toronto and Major League Soccer in 2014 appeared to have dealt his international career a fatal blow, with even a prolific scoring spell that steered Sunderland away from near-certain relegation last season not enough to force him back into Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2016 plans.
But, three and a half years after winning the last of his 55 caps, the former Tottenham, Portsmouth and West Ham marksman, 34, is back in the England squad for tomorrow’s high-profile friendly against world champions Germany in Dortmund.
That is reward for his 14 goals in 28 league games this term, as well as a consequence of an attack shorn of the injured Harry Kane and rusty Wayne Rooney, though Defoe has set his sights firmly on keeping his place for a third major international tournament.
“If I do get an opportunity to go to another major tournament it would be a dream,” said Defoe, who has scored 19 times for England.
“Travelling, getting to the hotel, playing the games. It’s something I wanted to do as a kid, growing up watching the major players on TV and wanting to emulate them. To be lucky enough to have experienced it you just want it more and more.
“When you’ve had that experience and gone into major tournaments, it’s something you just crave. I’ve been blessed to go to two major tournaments and I’ve never given up hope of coming back.
“There were times where I did think ‘maybe I’m not going to get in’. But that didn’t stop me from getting my head down, working hard and hoping that one day I would get an opportunity to represent my country again.
“I never gave up. I was getting a lot of stick from the lads on the [Sunderland] training ground because I still have the England flag on my boots. But I was just hoping I would get the opportunity again and now it has come I’m delighted.”
Defoe is one of just three specialist strikers – with Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford – in Southgate’s party for the Germany match and Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley.
England are not short of attacking talent, however, with Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard and newcomers Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse vying for supporting roles, and Defoe is confident of good service.
“If I’m feeling sharp I believe I can score goals. In this team I think I will get chances to score because of the quality,” he added.