Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe: I just want to play games

Jermain Defoe.
Jermain Defoe.
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Jermain Defoe is frustrated at being confined to a bit-part role in Sunderland’s struggles, amidst speculation over a January exit.

Defoe has been among the substitutes for Sunderland’s last four games after Dick Advocaat’s inability to incorporate the 33-year-old into his 4-3-3 system eventually led to the former Black Cats boss leaving the striker out of his starting XI.

We’ll see what happens. But at the age of 33, you want to play football

Jermain Defoe

Advocaat’s successor Sam Allardyce admitted last week that he was already pondering the Defoe conundrum and whether he could switch to an orthodox 4-4-2 to include the England international, yet the ex-Spurs frontman was again on the bench in last weekend’s defeat at West Brom.

Reports earlier this week suggested that Sunderland could ship out Defoe in the January transfer window after similar speculation over his future during the summer.

And Defoe admits he wants to be playing games at the tail end of his career, particularly when he feels he can help Sunderland in their battle against the drop.

“I read the papers and see my name and maybe it’s not a bad thing,” he said.

“Maybe people think that if we’re going to do something special at this club, then you need the players who are going to score goals.

“It’s only normal that people are going to look and think ‘Jermain is the one who should score the goals’.

“But managers play different systems.

“Obviously Dick played with a three up front and I was used out on the left a lot towards the end of last season.

“I did as well as I could there. It was obviously different, but we stayed up. If you’ve got a job to do for the team, you do it.

“You want to play up front because that’s where you get the chances to score goals.

“I’ve always been like that, always wanted to score goals and help win games. It’s no different now.

“The manager has come in and perhaps he doesn’t want to play 4-4-2 in some games, he wants to flood the midfield and stop conceding goals.

“We’ll see what happens. But at the age of 33, you want to play football.

“I didn’t come here to sit on the bench. I came here to score goals, I said that from day one.”

However, when asked if he would consider leaving the Stadium of Light in January if he remains on the fringes, Defoe replied: “I don’t think like that to be honest.

“I just try to focus on the games, stay positive and if I play, do my best and hopefully score.

“If I don’t play, I’ll keep myself sharp, maybe work a bit harder in training and wait for a chance.

“The manager knows me. He knows I want to play games at 33.

“He picks the team, you’ve got to respect that. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it.”

With Sunderland drawing a blank at West Brom, Allardyce must decide whether to recall Defoe for Sunday’s Wear-Tyne derby as the Premier League’s basement boys bid to end their search for a first win of the campaign.

But while the heat is on the Black Cats due to their perilous league position, Defoe is relishing the chance to secure a record sixth successive derby win over the Magpies.

“There’s a lot of pressure, but you wouldn’t change it for the world,” added Defoe.

“It’s an unbelievable life. You’re doing something for a job that you dreamt of as a kid, in probably the best league in the world.

“Yes, we’re searching for that first win, but Sunday is a different game.

“If we can get that first win, it will give everyone a different feeling and I think we’re good enough to do it.”