Phil Smith: Disrespectful West Ham just didn't get it with derisory Jermain Defoe offer

Well, at least we now have some kind of idea what West Ham were thinking.

Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 11:20 am
Updated Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 11:21 am
Defoe is the subject of fierce speculation

Why they sized up Jermain Defoe, everything he’s worth to Sunderland, and came up with £6 million.

Tears on the half way against Newcastle, bedlam in the corner against Chelsea. Three great escapes that he more than made his stamp on.

A player who has given hope, and warded off a growing apathy. Not all on his own, of course, but not far off either.

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£6 million?

‘How much do you think you could sell Defoe for when he’s 36? Dg’, read the message, the latest public intervention from West Ham discussing another club’s player. That followed numerous glowing references from Slaven Bilic, and a bizarre gossip column that appeared on the official club site all but confirming the bid.

At least there was a semblance in sense in what Gold offered. Defoe certainly has next to no sell-on value for the next club to have him, and for all his supreme and admirable fitness levels, he probably will struggle to stay at his level past 2019 at the latest.

So in purely economic terms, there was logic.

Yet the derisory offer from the Hammers showed that when it comes to Defoe and Sunderland, they just don’t get it.

Nor do the plethora of pundits wheeled out to say how desperate Defoe would be to head South, how West ham should ‘break the bank’. It was at best simplistic, at worst disrespectful.

Experience will tell Sunderland fans that this tale may well have some legs in it yet, that West Ham’s apparent ‘cooling’ may well not be the end of the story.

For there are certainly reasons why returning to West Ham might appeal to the 34-year-old. Redemption at the club where it all started and ended so sourly may appeal, and any striker of stature would want to play in front of Dimitri Payet.

It is certainly hard work leading the line for Sunderland, often with little service and isolated from the action. Defoe may well feel, too, that his best chance of a last shot at international football would be better served from playing elsewhere.

Worth pointing out, too, that bidding on players is part of the game. West Ham are as entitled to do it as anyone.

What rankled, however, was the undertone to West Ham’s pursuit, and the coverage of it, that seemed to presume that there was no way Defoe could be happy in the North East.

So, Mr Sutton, et al, let’s get that right.

Sunderland have been extraordinarily lucky to have Jermain Defoe, but it is an arrangement that has served the striker just as well. How many 34-year-old footballers can secure a lucrative, three-year deal, as he does? At the top tier, hardly any.

When Defoe arrived at Sunderland, he had been exiled in the MLS, unhappy and unproductive. Sunderland made a major financial commitment and rebuilt his career.

With the Black Cats, Defoe has not only enjoyed an Indian summer to his career but completely reshaped his legacy and perception. Long-standing doubts about him, his overall contribution to the game, whether he could lead the line up on his own, all have been emphatically answered.

With Sunderland he can as good as guarantee a starting spot for two and a half seasons, a chance to chase down his idols on the Premier League goal scoring chart. With West Ham, who knows which strikers they could move on to come the summer.

Defoe has repaid the faith shown in his abilities in full, embracing the region, the fanbase and the responsibilities of being the club’s marquee player. It may well end at some stage, but there’s no reason why it is inevitable.

Indeed, it’s tempting to wonder what would have happened had the boot been on the other foot.

Imagine, for a moment, if Sunderland had placed a £10 million for Payet. Then David Moyes had begun talking him up in press conferences, what a special player he is. Then the club site leaked a bid, before Ellis Short started discussing the Frenchman on Twitter. A plethora of North East pundits began talking about Payet, how good he would be for Sunderland, what they should spend on him.

The level of ridicule would be both vast and perfectly justified. It has been another episode that reveals the underlying stereotypes towards the region from other areas of the country. What many don’t seem to appreciate is that Defoe has seen another side of the coin.

The adulation, the passion, the intensity.

Whether that is enough to keep him at the club until 2019 remains to be seen, but it’s high time we had more voices redressing the balance.