Jermain Defoe discusses the mental challenges of playing up front for Sunderland.. and how he overcomes them

Defoe has been brilliant again for Sunderland this season
Defoe has been brilliant again for Sunderland this season
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Jermain Defoe has admitted that it can be difficult playing up front in a struggling Sunderland side, but that his years of experience at the top of the game help him to keep scoring.

Defoe netted a superb brace at Selhurst Park in last weekend’s tremendous 4-0 victory over relegation rivals Crystal Palace, taking him to 14 Premier League goals for the season.

It is another remarkable effort from the 34-year-old, placing him level with Harry Kane and just one behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Diego Costa and Alexis Sanchez.

Palace’s Christian Benteke is the next highest scorer for a side currently in the bottom half, with nine goals, while Swansea talisman Gylfi Sigurdsson is on eight.

Service has not always been great for experienced campaigner Defoe, but he told the Echo that he has learned the importance of patience and being ready for the chances when they eventually come.

Defoe said ahead of tomorrow’s crucial home clash with out-of-form Southampton: “It’s experience because I always know, it might come in the first minute or the last, but I always know, in the game, I’ll always get a chance or a half-chance.

“Maybe it’s a half-chance my second goal (at Palace) when I turn, but I’m always concentrating, always ready for when my chance comes.”

His abilities have made him an on-field leader for the Black Cats, part of a core of the squad who have seen these relegation fights time and time again at the Stadium of Light.

Generally, the mood in the camp is calm and collected, but there were times in January when frustration with the failure to make any headway in games spilled over.

Often Sunderland players were remonstrating with each other on the field, but Defoe says it is merely a sign of their, and his, determination to fire the side into the comfort of mid-table.

The former Tottenham and Portsmouth star said: “I try not to get frustrated because it’s difficult and the boys know, even when I moan, it’s only because I want to score goals for this team.

“I want the lads to know that when I get the chances I’ve got that hunger to score goals.

“I’ve always been like that, I’ve always focused, even if I’m quiet I’m waiting for that chance.”

Defoe will have been buoyed by the service provided by his team-mates in the capital last weekend, Adnan Januzaj twice finding him with precise through-balls.

He also had special words of admiration for Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong, whose fine finishes for Sunderland’s first two goals finally took the burden away from him.

Defoe has been left brimming with confidence and said that it is hard work on the training ground that always leaves him so bullish ahead of games.

He said: “At the end of the day, I’ve always worked hard, I’ve always practiced my finishing, worked hard.

“When you do that throughout your career, you always feel confident on match day.”