Scottish Daily Mail
Defoe eager to correct his meagre medal tally
JERMAIN DEFOE had to wait ten years to get his hands on the League Cup medal he earned in English football. That curious tale aside, it’s been the only adornment of silver on his long and glittering career... so far.
For the 38-year- old striker, the start of another Betfred Cup campaign with Rangers is a source of almost youthful excitement.
The first trophy up for grabs in a campaign full of promise, he hopes tomorrow evening’s trip to Falkirk can mark the start of a journey back to Hampden — and an opportunity to make up for last year’s near-miss.
This season’s f i nal f alls on February 28, by which time it will have been almost a decade since the Ibrox club last claimed a major prize in the shape of the 2010-11 league title.
Defoe is understandably eager to amend that record. And to add more medals to a personal CV packed full of goalscoring achievement.
One thing is certain. Success with Rangers will have to come through more orthodox means than his memento of Tottenham’s 2008 League Cup triumph.
Defoe played in five ties to help Spurs reach the final, but left for Portsmouth a month before they defeated Chelsea at Wembley.
It wasn’t until 2018, with the striker then at Bournemouth, that the English Football League decided to act and present him with a medal.
‘ That was weird because I remember at the time at Tottenham, I played in all the rounds and was scoring goals up until the final,’ reflected Defoe.
‘ That January, I signed f or Portsmouth. Juande Ramos came to Tottenham, I decided to leave and I went to Portsmouth under Harry Redknapp.
‘They actually won the FA Cup but I couldn’t play. And I missed the final at Tottenham.
‘I managed to get my medal years later. Of course it would be great to have played in the final, but I suppose even the lads on the bench who didn’t get to play got their medals. It was good because, leading up to the final, I made a contribution. Hopefully, this time round will be a lot different.’
Defoe is likely to start at Falkirk as Steven Gerrard’s side aim to make it 23 games unbeaten in all competitions and reach the quarter-finals.
Last season, they dominated Celtic in the final, yet still ended up losing 1-0. Alfredo Morelos missed a number of chances — including a second-half penalty — as their ten-man rivals held on for a win secured by Christopher Jullien’s goal.
Defoe, who came off the bench for the final 20 minutes, admits the painful memory will be used as additional motivation.
‘We want to compete in every competition. This is the first bit of silverware we can go for this season so, of course, we are going to try and do that.
‘That’s why you come to Rangers as a player. You come here to win trophies. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good pressure.
‘I’m looking forward to the game and the competition, especially with what happened last season. There is t hat sort of extra incentive.’
Defoe (below) feels everyone at Rangers is on the same page. Intensity behind the scenes is being mirrored on the pitch.
‘First, it’s probably the focus and the mentality of keeping those high standards in training — training well every single day, not wasting a session,’ he said. ‘I think we have taken that into the games. The mentality has always been good but, at the end of the day, we’re human.
‘There are times where you are playing well and, naturally, you take your foot off the gas a little bit or go through the motion sin training.
‘But I’ ve seen a different kind of focus. Every single day is just relentless. The intensity in training, the hard work.
‘Even the younger players are coming into the gym after training, lads doing yoga, just ticking every box. I hope this continues f or the whole season because you never know what we could achieve. So far, it’s been good.’ Gerrard has given Defoe extra breathing space in terms of free midweeks by leaving him out of the club’s Europa League squad. ‘The manager will always be honest with me,’ he said. ‘ A lot of the time he looks at it and puts himself in the position of what could have helped him at the back end of his career. ‘It’s helped me because in the two games I’ve started I’ve felt really sharp. ‘At first, you have to put your ego to the side a little bit and think about the bigger picture and why the manager is doing it. ‘I asked: “Is it going to help me in the long run?”. And I think it has.’ Meanwhile, Gerrard believes Kemar Roofe is closing in on peak form with Rangers after his latest s pectacular Europa League strike. The £ 3.5million signing from Anderlecht scored his seventh goal of the season by smashing a shot high into the net from the edge of the box in Thursday night’s 2-2 draw with Benfica. Roofe’s introduction to life at Ibrox was interrupted by a calf injury that sidelined him for a month prior to his i ncredible 50-yard finish against Standard Liege in October. After starting each of Rangers’ last three games — scoring four times — Roofe may now be rested tomorrow. The Ibrox manager believes, however, that the 27-year- old is now showing just why the club invested in him. ‘He is repeating training sessions now and he is available for games,’ said Gerrard. ‘ He’s got no niggles, pains or disruptions to his training. ‘I think you can see signs he is getting close to his best.’ Rangers hope to have Bongani Zungu available to f ace Falkirk. Joe Aribo could also return but Ryan Jack remains sidelined.