Sunderland striker Defoe thriving on pressure – and says ‘I really believe we will have a good year’

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe celebrates his goal in front of the travelling fans at Manchester City. Picture by Frank Reid
Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe celebrates his goal in front of the travelling fans at Manchester City. Picture by Frank Reid
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Jermain Defoe is thriving under the pressure of being Sunderland’s main man after opening his account early in front of watching England boss Sam Allardyce.

Defoe’s clinical equaliser 20 minutes from time looked to have secured David Moyes’s side a superb opening day result at Manchester City.

But debutant Paddy McNair’s unfortunate own goal scuppered hopes of a first Premier League point.

Defoe is now joint 10th highest goalscorer in the top flight and last season’s top scorer enjoys the pressure to match – or even better – last season’s 15-goal league haul.

“It is the same pressure. Even when I was at Tottenham, you are the forward and people expect you to score goals,” Defoe told the Echo.

“It is a new season, you never know what will happen, but, as a forward, I want to score goals to help the team and the boys.

“I always say to Younes Kaboul and the lads at the back, you lot keep clean sheets and when we get the chance we will score.

“I know how important my goals are and I’m sure the rest of the lads will chip in this year because we have some good players.

“The young lads coming through as well, looked really good. I really believe we will have a good year.”

Former Sunderland-turned-England boss Allardyce was in the stands at the Etihad Stadium, sat alongside England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate.

And Defoe hasn’t given up hope of adding to his 55 England caps, after missing out on a place at Euro 2016 under Roy Hodgson.

Defoe added: “Yeah, he was watching. The manager said that before the game – he wished all the boys all the best and someone gave me a little nod as if to say he is watching you.

“I thought I had a chance with the previous manager, but I don’t know!

“It is important for me to just get my head down. People will say what they like, but it is down to me.

“I need to continue to work hard, keep sharp and forwards get judged on scoring goals.”

Defoe saw little of the ball in the second half but made it count when it mattered, taking one touch from Jack Rodwell’s deft pass before slotting the ball under Willy Caballero.

A key figure under Moyes, Defoe has put his previous frustrations of being asked to play out of position under former boss Dick Advocaat firmly to bed.

He added: “Last season, I started in a different position. It was frustrating, but everything changed when Sam came in and I played in my normal position.

“I have said a lot about that, though. I have worked hard, feel sharp and always believed, if I get a chance, I will score goals.”

The 33-year-old looked sharp despite missing the last four pre-season games with a thigh strain.

Defoe added: “I missed the games, but I was still working hard with the fitness guys, doing all my running and gym stuff.

“I couldn’t go into training but was still doing my physical stuff. Iit was fine. I was lucky enough I was able to do that.

“With the little problem I had, I could still get on a bike and do cardio work.”