Veteran hitman Jermain Defoe and his wealth of goalscoring experience can be a major asset for England’s youthful squad for the long term, according to Three Lions playmaker Adam Lallana.
Defoe reignited his international career with the opening goal in England’s 2-0 World Cup qualification win over Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday – his first goal for his country since March 2013.
Victory boosted England’s hopes of reaching next summer’s World Cup in Russia and national team boss Gareth Southgate has talked up the prospects of the 34-year-old making the cut and being named in his tournament squad.
The Sunderland striker was one of just three players over the age of 30 named in England’s matchday party against Lithuania, maturity which Lallana believes can prove beneficial to the wider squad.
“Of course you can’t win things with just kids and inexperience and it is great to have someone like that around the camp,” said Lallana.
“It is refreshing to see the hunger he still has. At times you think he is 23, 24 because he is that hungry and that driven to still improve. HIs enthusiasm for the game is really refreshing and it is great for people in our squad to see.
“We have got a lot of young players, so it is great to see the hunger he has still got. He is determined to, not just be here for this squad, but keep being picked and be in the squad for Russia at the World Cup – and why not when he comes and contributes like he did?”
Defoe, who made his first England appearance since November 2013 at the weekend, has netted 14 goals for relegation-threatened Sunderland this season. Lallana believes Defoe’s enduring predatory instincts are more significant than his advancing years.
“He is all about goals but I think his link-up play at times was superb,” said the 28-year-old Liverpool forward. “He wants to be in the six-yard box and feed off scraps at times and you need these type of players.
“He is a great role model for everyone in the squad. He has been absolutely brilliant this week, he sets a great example for a lot of us players.
“It still feels like you are playing with a 25-year-old Jermain Defoe. To be playing with him for England is quite surreal, it is the Jermain Defoe of old. You bet your bottom dollar he is going to score a goal and he did.”