Defoe is considered one of football’s best goal poachers, and has enjoyed an illustrious career in England and north of the border in Scotland. He claimed a League Cup win in 2008 with Tottenham Hotspur – the club’s last major title – as well as a Scottish Premiership medal while playing for Glasgow Rangers. The 39-year-old, who began his professional career with West Ham United, has represented an array of sides, including stints at Portsmouth, Sunderland and AFC Bournemouth.
The striker also won 57 caps for England, scoring 20 goals, and will tonight appear on ITV’s coverage as the Three Lions take on Andorra in a World Cup qualifier.
Defoe has mixed emotions when it comes to his own experience of being selected for England, and for World Cups.
He represented England at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which saw the Three Lions eliminated in the Last 16 to old rivals Germany.
But in a throwback interview, Defore angrily condemned ex-England boss Eriksson after he was snubbed in 2006 for a place in the World Cup squad, with his place going to uncapped 17-year-old Theo Walcott instead.
At the time, Defoe was playing for Tottenham, but Eriksson insisted there weren’t players “who could score at this [international] level” and questioned whether the striker was good enough for a place.
Speaking three years after he was ruled out for selection by the Swedish manager, Defoe admitted he would “never forget what happened in 2006 and it still seems like yesterday, it’s so clear in my mind”.
He confessed that being snubbed by Eriksson in 2004 for the Euros was understandable as “that was the first season I really got into the squad so I wasn’t expecting to actually go to the tournament”.
But he noted that two years later the situation was “totally different”.
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He continued: “I was actually there with the boys in the hotel and then I had to come home. I knew that Wayne and Michael were not fit. The frustrating thing was that I felt really fit.
“For 10 days we’d done a lot of running and strengthening work. I felt really sharp in training. When I was speaking to the other lads they’d say, ’You look really fit.’ At the back of your mind you’re thinking, ’This is for nothing really because you’ve got to go home.’
“Then after the tournament I heard what the manager said. Hopefully that manager is watching the games I play now!“
Defoe became a major influence in British football, particularly after he struck up an iconic friendship with Bradley Lowery, a terminally-ill six-yer-old Sunderland fan.
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He described his relationship with Bradley as the “highlight of his season” after joining Sunderland in 2015.
When Bradley was named Child of Courage at the Pride of North East Awards in May 2017, Defoe attended the ceremony.
He said: “As a person he has changed me because of what he’s going through at such a young age.”
A year after Bradley sadly passed away, Defoe was awarded an OBE in the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to the Jermain Defoe Foundation, a charitable foundation he founded in 2013.
Fellow ITV pundit Ian Wright also once described how he watched England hero Paul Gascoigne as he was told he wasn’t selected to represent England at the France 98.
Then-England boss Glenn Hoddle was reportedly expected to drop Gascoigne, who became a national treasure for his performances at the World Cup in 1990.
Upon hearing this, Gascoigne, affectionately known as Gazza, stormed into Hoddle’s hotel room, where he was told he wouldn’t be joining the team in France.
Gazza then smashed Hoddle’s room, before Wright entered to learn his fate.
Wright recalled: “I remember when I went in and we were actually talking about me being in the squad while cleaning the room up and fixing the mattress.
“Me and the gaffer were talking about what he needed from me and Michael [Owen] all the time while we’re tidying the room up – things had been smashed to bits!”