GUS POYET expects Jermain Defoe to be a fixture in Sunderland’s starting XI after his return to the Premier League.
Defoe was unable to open his Sunderland account on his home debut in last weekend’s FA Cup stalemate against Fulham, but the England international has started both games for the Black Cats since arriving in a swap deal with Jozy Altidore.
The 32-year-old was eager to come back to the Premier League this month after admitting he missed English football following 12 months with Toronto.
But Poyet believes that it was important for Defoe to pick a side among his host of suitors who would enable him to play regularly after starting just three top flight games for Spurs last season before leaving White Hart Lane in February.
“I think the problem with Jermain, and I’m sure he realises this now, is he wants to play,” Poyet told the Echo.
“And he wants to play at the highest level.
“I think it was difficult for him to say no (to Toronto) and he knew he was going to play.
“But the problem then was that he found himself in a different level of football with a different mentality and different travelling.
“He realised then how much he missed the Premier League.
“When he came back, the idea was to play at the highest level possible, but playing.
“He didn’t want to go to a top three team and only play the odd game.
“That was the situation and that was why we had the chance.”
Considering Defoe had not started a competitive game since mid-October, the striker has looked sharp in his two appearances so far for Sunderland - denied by several smart saves from Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli last weekend.
But perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise, with Defoe pro-active in keeping himself in shape and bristling at doubts over his advancing years.
Poyet certainly doesn’t see Defoe’s age as an issue after the frontman penned a three-and-a-half year deal with Sunderland.
“No, it’s not a concern,” said Poyet.
“I know him. I know how he looks after himself.
“I know when he gets to training what he does and what he does afterwards.
“And he’s looked sharp.”