Gareth needs class of Jack
JERMAIN DEFOE blew out the candles on his 35th birthday cake yesterday – and vowed to savour at least another two years in the big time.
Defoe’s love for the game is as strong as ever as he looks back on the sacrifices he has made to stay at the peak of his superb condition.
He has never been a big drinker and as a non-smoker has never puffed on a shisha pipe, unlike a few of his England counterparts.
And his only vice is with regular supplies delivered to his south coast mansion from his favourite sweet shop back at his old haunt of Sunderland.
Defoe does not condemn anyone a couple of pints or a ciggie. Far from it.
Abstinence is his chosen path with mum Sandra playing a huge part in his upbringing by constantly reminding him of the life he must lead to reach the top – and stay there.
There cannot be a better way to track his journey from starry-eyed kid to an England goal ace than to highlight a defining moment in his young life.
Defoe said: “As a young kid my mum used to say a lot of things to me. That discipline at the time I didn’t really appreciate.
“I remember being in my bedroom – we used to live on an estate – and my mates used to be there. Smoking, drinking, talking to girls.
“As a young lad, of course you want to be involved but mum always used to say, ‘If you’re telling me you want to become a professional footballer, like you’ve been telling me since you were two, then you have to do everything right’.
“It’s sacrifices. She was like that from day one. There are times when I’m tough on myself. I go to a restaurant and think, ‘That chocolate brownie looks nice’. And I’m like, ‘No’.
“I know all the sacrifices over the years and you get to this level because of that. I try to be vegan but I love fish. It’s a difficult one. Everyone knows I don’t drink alcohol.
“I’ve never drunk really through my whole career. That’s probably why I’m still playing.
“I’m still human but I’m not saying I’m an angel or footballers shouldn’t drink.
“I’ve worked hard. I’ve ticked every box in terms of what I can do to get myself fitter every season. It’s clean living. You eat the right things and you listen to people at the club.
“But I don’t judge anyone. Do you know what I love? Bubble gum. When I was at Sunderland there was this sweet shop. There was bubble gum. As soon as I walked in they’d go in the back and get a box.
“I still get them delivered to my house and even then it’s probably mainly after the game. But apart from that I try my best to be disciplined.”
So how long can the Defoe longevity last after a 18-year career which has taken him from West Ham to Tottenham (three times), Portsmouth, Toronto, Sunderland and now Bournemouth?
Defoe added: “If I feel the same at 37 then why not?
“I was 35 on Saturday and all of a sudden someone is thinking, ‘You shouldn’t be playing for England or you shouldn’t be playing in the Premier League at that age because of how intense it is’.
“If I’m still running down the channels like I’m 25 then for me, it doesn’t really matter. It’s not left me. It’s always been inside me. When I meet up with the England squad I get that same buzz.
“I don’t think it will ever go.” PETER BARNES has had the same nagging thought for as long as he can remember.
Where are the England flair players who can get you moving to the edge of your seat in excited anticipation?
Barnes, a flying winger for Manchester City, United, West Brom and Leeds, has always loved watching Paul Gascoigne and Glenn Hoddle to name just a few of past Three Lions greats.
Now, he only sees Jack Wilshere (right) living up to that silky standard but he cannot get a chance in the current England squad heading for the World Cup in Russia.
Barnes said: “England have done well to qualify although it was an easy group. I didn’t expect anything more or less. But I just think we are going there with a shortage of world-class players. “We have a lot of tryers and workers. But when you put Fabian Delph and Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park that’s a problem. We’re sacrificing talent. “Whatever has happened to Wilshere? To me he is the most talented midfielder we have. “We have got to go back to creating and finding more talent. “We have got Dele Alli but I’m not sure about his attitude. We need four or five more talented players and let them play.”
■ BY GUM: Defoe reckons he is fit enough to play on at top