Jermain Defoe is ‘buzzing’ to be back in the England squad, with manager Gareth Southgate refusing to rule out a shock World Cup finals selection for the 34-year-old in 2018.
Sunderland striker Defoe has not appeared for his country since 2013, but his goal scoring exploits this season have earned a call-up ahead of Wednesday’s friendly in Germany and a Wembley qualifier against Lithuania next Sunday.
Southgate is looking to the future but wants ‘competition’ and is confident that Defoe – who has netted 14 goals in 30 first-team appearances this term – can make an impact.
He said: “I think it is impossible to say for any of the players [World Cup finals selection in Russia].
“Year after year he is phenomenal, but particularly this season in a team that perhaps aren’t creating as many chances as other teams.
“His strike rate is outstanding, so I didn’t want to just look at his age and think ‘he is finished with England’.
“He warrants the call-up. I have to look at getting results short, medium and long-term. With this squad, we are definitely nodding towards the future with some of the decisions that we are making.
“But also you need senior players around to educate some of the younger ones, to show them some of the things they need to learn, and also the competition is important.”
Defoe, who has scored 19 times for England in 55 caps, took to social media to reveal his pride at his selection.
He said: “Playing for England has been my dream since day one, so to be back in the squad is so special for me.
“It’s also special for my family and I feel I deserve this because I’ve always dedicated myself to the game.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting up with the squad and seeing all the boys. This time around, it’ll be strange being one of the older lads, but I can’t wait. Buzzing.”
Defoe has a strong chance of adding to his 55 England caps, with Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford the only other recognised strikers in the squad.
Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford has missed out on the senior squad, with Gareth Southgate opting for Joe Hart, Fraser Forster and tomorrow’s opponent, Burnley goalie Tom Heaton.
Pickford will take the gloves for the Under-21 side, however, for ties against Germany (Friday) and Denmark (Monday, March 27).
The 23-year-old is likely to be a key part of England’s side at next summer’s U21 European Championships.