When the question was first raised, Monsieur Salut’s instinctive response was along the lines of ‘Hodgson doesn’t really know where Sunderland is, so is unlikely to see Jermain Defoe play unless we’re away to and being beaten soundly by a London side containing one or more of his favourites’. But the questioner persisted with the result that we have now a guest article, from Mark Smith, a sports writer based in Prague, weighing up the pros and cons of Defoe’s case for an England recall …
Should Jermain be on Hodgson’s plane?
The January transfer window has shut so it’s eyes down for the runners and riders hoping to make Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2016. As always, the biggest focus of attention will be on the strikers in the squad.
One free place
In the final squad of 23, you’d expect Hodgson to take four centre forwards. Wayne Rooney, England’s all time leading scorer, will be the first name on the team sheet, closely followed by Harry Kane who has proved he is not a one-season wonder with Spurs after netting 16 goals in 26 games this term.
Then you’d have to expect Jamie Vardy will be next up given his exploits with Leicester this season. The fact Hodgson was grinning like a schoolboy at the King Power Stadium when Vardy lashed in a contender for goal of the season against Liverpool was a giveaway that the Leicester man should keep his summer free.
This leaves potentially one space up for grabs and Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe is definitely a player Hodgson should be considering for this summer’s European Championships.
On the face, it seems an absurd claim since Defoe hasn’t been anywhere near the England side for three years – when he scored in the World Cup 2014 qualifier against San Marino – but soon after, his move to the MLS appeared to be the final nail in his England coffin as he was left out in the International wilderness.
But Defoe has been nothing short of sensational for the Black Cats this season, scoring 10 goals in 21 appearances for a side in the relegation zone is an impressive return – proving he hasn’t lost his predatory finishing touch.
His cool first time finish in the 89th minute at Anfield to salvage a 2-2 draw is a timely reminder of what he could offer to England. If you’re chasing the game and you get one final chance in front of goal, who would you want it to fall to? I’d even lean towards Defoe ahead of Kane, Vardy and Rooney in this situation.
Paul Merson is not known for his pearls of wisdom but he made an interesting comment on Soccer Saturday recently. “We don’t make a lot of chances in these tournaments, so you need someone who’s going to be two chances one goal,” he said. “Defoe scores goals and that’s the hardest thing in the world.”
So, in theory, Defoe has a realistic chance and should probably be the fourth striker as he offers something different to the others.
However, once you add some context to the argument, the case for Defoe packing his bags to board the England plane this summer becomes very flimsy. Firstly, you still have players like Daniel Sturridge, Charlie Austin and Danny Welbeck to consider who are younger than Defoe and could well come into form in the coming weeks.
Secondly, you only have to look a little bit deeper at Defoe’s England record to see how he was valued during the prime of his career. It took him 51 appearances to actually play the FULL 90 minutes in an England shirt, while his tally of 32 substitute appearances is an England record.
So even back then, Defoe was regarded as backup at best.
Why would this change now he is a 33-year-old striker playing for a relegation-threatened side? Furthermore, five of his 10 goals this season were scored against very poor Swansea and Aston Villa sides.
There is also the formation to consider. Hodgson is known to like to play a 4-3-3 with a strong target man and two pacey wide men – which severely limits Defoe’s chances – he might have more luck in Hodgson’s 4-4-2 system but, again, Rooney plus one of Kane/Vardy would appear to be first choice.
All in all, Jermain Defoe is having a great season in Premier League and could prove the difference in keeping the Mackems up. As a fourth striker at Euro 2016 he wouldn’t let England down but the chances of the 33-year-old making the cut for Roy Hodgson’s final 23-man squad look very slim indeed.