Jermain Defoe is proud to be compared with legendary Sunderland duo Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips - as he closes in on his best ever Premier League haul.
The Black Cats goal machine has 14 league goals to his name this season, four shy of his record top-flight return.
In the 2009-10 campaign, Defoe netted 18 goals for Tottenham Hotspur and with three months still to play this year, the 34-year-old is in line to set a new personal best.
Defoe followed in the footsteps of Quinn and Phillips when he was crowned the North East Football Writers’ Player of the Year at the weekend.
And he is happy to be reaching similar heights to them on the pitch.
“It is an incentive, you always want to do well,” said Defoe, when asked about the inevitable comparisons with Quinn and Phillips.
“It doesn’t matter what position you play, you always want to do well and you look at the players who have played for the football club and if I can do that then great.
“You read things from the fans on social media and they say ‘you remind me of Kevin Phillips’.
“When you arrive at a new club you want to get off to a good start and it has been great how it has gone in terms of the goals I have scored.
“I am grateful for how the fans have taken to me. The fans took to me straight away.”
Quinn, a former striker, manager and chairman of Sunderland, won the FWA gong in 1999 with Phillips, who scored 130 goals in 235 appearances, winning it 12-months later.
Defoe’s impact for Sunderland since arriving in January 2015 has been monumental, with his goals helping keep the club up last season.
“I scored 15 league goals last year, I am on 14 now,” said Defoe.
“If I can beat that - and hopefully I will - then yes I can say I have improved on last season!
“At Spurs in the 2010 season I got 18 but I don’t have that in my mind. I just keep working hard.
“On a personal note this season has gone well in terms of the number of goals scored.
“There is no other feeling like it when you score - you feel confident and always look confident.
“The goals are needed. I realise that, it is helping the team, the club and my teammates - hopefully I can keep going.”
Defoe is in New York with the rest of the Sunderland squad on a team-bonding trip, with the Black Cats not in action until a week on Saturday when they travel to Everton.
Sunderland were thrashed 4-0 by Southampton at the weekend to leave them bottom of the Premier League.
“When you are playing well you can’t wait until the next game, after Palace we couldn’t wait,” said Defoe.
“It was disappointing against Southampton, the first 20 minutes were good but disappointing after that and we cannot dwell on those results.
“We have a while before the next game but at least it gives us time to prepare in the right way.”