Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe has been one of the club’s most loyal servants since his return to White Hart Lane in 2009.
The English striker has scored more than 130 goals across 340-odd appearances for Spurs in his two spells with the club – season after season he delivers the goods and last term was no exception to that rule, he scored 15 goals in 43 appearances across all competitions.
For both club and country, strikers come and go in competition with him but he has always remained focused on his own game – his ability, his fitness, his performance. He is the consummate professional. He’s scored 19 goals in his 54 appearances for England, popping up in the box in numerous tense occasions with the Three Lions.
Whilst the arrival of new signing Roberto Soldado might have worried other frontmen – and it should – Defoe instead kept his focus on himself and his own career. He didn’t moan or complain; despite the fact he must have known he’d see a diminished access to regular first-team starts with the Spaniard’s arrival.
He waiting patiently on the bench against Crystal Palace and then again against Swansea and again against Arsenal for his late chances to get on the pitch and then saw himself benched for the entire 90 minutes against Norwich. His only 90 minutes had been against Dinamo Tbilisi in August (a game in which he scored a brace incidentally) and on Thursday night he got only his second start of the campaign again Tromso.
He scored a brace again – as he said he’d like to in an interview prior to the game – and urged completely dismissed the notion that he’d be satisfied with being ‘an impact player’ or a ‘supersub’ in Andre Villas-Boas’s squad. He wants to play, he wants to start and he wants to score for Tottenham. His motivation has never wavered.
His two goals in two games in the Europa League now takes his tally to 4 goals in 5 appearances for Spurs and, given that he’s actually played just 40 minutes of Premier League football this season, that’s impressive. Soldado’s arrival hasn’t affected his focus, his attitude, his confidence or his form.
In contrast, Emmanuel Adebayor has yet to play a game this season due to being given compassionate leave and has been training with the reserves since he returned to the club on Monday.
Last season the Togo international was frustrated by his manager’s preference to play the in-form Defoe instead of him for the majority of the season. Much like Defoe is experiencing now, Adebayor was given run outs in the Europa League whilst Defoe played mostly in the Premier League but the difference between the focus, work rate and professionalism of the two strikers who are very close in age and experience.
Adebayor played 90 minutes for Spurs on just 10 occasions in the Premier League last season and scored 5 goals. In the Europa League he played 8 full games and scored 3 goals but his overall focus and commitment was less than impressive. He squandered chances, especially in their defeat to Basel, and there had been hopes from all parties that he could possibly make a move away from White Hart Lane this summer.
Now, Adebayor has at the earliest until January to either prove to the boss he deserve a chance to play – if he even wants to fight for his place at all – or work hard in training and try to put himself in the shop window with a couple of good performances if he can in the time between now and January.
Meanwhile, Defoe is ‘looking forward’ to having him back – such is the positive nature of Jermaine Defoe, he actually likes and prefers to have competition for places to challenge him – and Emmanuel Adebayor would be wise to take a leaf out of Defoe’s book on how to focus on yourself when you’re not the first choice and impress when you get your chance to shine.
image: © OliverN5