Jermain Defoe At 40: England's Nomadic Striker Loved Everywhere

Has a player every been so treasured at so many clubs?
11:55, 07 Oct 2022

It might still feel like he's wearing a West Ham shirt three sizes too big for him as an 18-year-old, but Jermain Defoe turns 40 today. From teen sensation at West Ham to inspirational role model, Defoe has the rare composition of having played for loads of clubs, and being loved at almost all of them. Below we look at some of his best career moments. 

Harry, Crouch and Kranjcar

It became somewhat of a meme, but Harry Redknapp was monumental in Defoe's development. He bought him from Charlton for over £1m as a 16-year-old, helped develop him at West Ham and then bought him twice more at Portsmouth and Tottenham later down the line. 

At Portsmouth he teamed up with Peter Crouch and Nico Kranjcar, and the trio became iconic with that era of the Premier League. Portsmouth won an FA Cup, before they reunited at Tottenham to make the Champions League. Two spells at Spurs and the Pompey days were a success, but he’d bag a piece of history at White Hart Lane…


Five vs Wigan Athletic

Only Alan Shearer and Andy Cole had ever scored five goals in a Premier League match before. Then Spurs faced Wigan Athletic at home in 2009. They were only 1-0 up at half-time but in the second half, Defoe scored five as they romped to a 9-1 win. It was absolutely sensational stuff. 

“I never dreamed I’d score five goals in a Premier League game. That’s school football stuff,” he wrote in the Players Tribune. “But I just got a feeling in the first five minutes against Wigan. I can’t even remember what it was exactly, but I did something in the game, and I was just like, Ooh, yeah, I'm on it today. I got this....  I remember it was only 1–0 at half time, but I got my first goal around the 50th minute and then they just kept coming. Second, third, fourth”

That England World Cup Goal 

The World Cup has offered Defoe some of the biggest highs and lowest lows of his career. In 2006, when he was scoring goals in the Premier League and involved in the England set-up, Sven-Goran Eriksson surprisingly left him out of the squad for 16-year-old Theo Walcott. Walcott hadn’t played a single minute of Premier League football at that stage and was a complete left-field pick, while Defoe was a reliable goalscorer. 

After the disappointment of 2006 and the misery of failing to qualify for the Euros in 2008, Defoe finally got his chance under Fabio Capello in 2010. When England were desperate, he was thrown in for the final group game against Slovenia. The Three Lions needed to win, and Defoe got across to the near post to volley in the winner. It was, according to Defoe himself, his favourite goal. 

Sunderland and Bradley Lowery 

Defoe had a spell in Toronto before Sunderland captured the striker. It was a move that would reinvigorate his career and also change his life. Let’s start on the pitch. Against Newcastle, he scored one of the defining goals of the Tyne-Wear derby. Steven Fletcher headed the ball on and he unleashed a vicious volley into the top corner with his left foot. Outrageous. 

He was a wonderful forward on the pitch, but off the pitch he was formed an unbreakable bond with Bradley Lowery. From their first meeting, it was clear they had a special relationship and Defoe continued to spend time with him up to his death in 2017, while his charity work has continued with the Bradley Lowery Foundation. 

“At first I was going with other players, but then I just kept going back on my own,” he wrote. I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. We just had this natural connection, this bond. I still don’t know how to explain it. I got so used to him being around at Sunderland that I really struggled after he was gone. 

“He taught me to appreciate life and the people around me so much more. He changed me, my whole perspective. He was such a character, so funny.”

Rangers sign off

Steven Gerrard rang Defoe with a simple message. “This club is the nearest thing to Liverpool I’ve seen. It’s that big. It’s a giant. And we’re gonna put it back on top.”

He wasn’t lying. Defoe joined up as an experienced head and helped guide Rangers to their first Scottish title in ten years. They stopped Celtic’s ten in a row and went unbeaten for the entire season. So you can add the blue half of Glasgow to the parts of Britain that remember Defoe fondly. 

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