Sunderland star Jermain Defoe insists ‘I’m not a left winger, I’m a striker’

Jermain Defoe in action for Sunderland against Sacramento Republic, via Getty Images)
Jermain Defoe in action for Sunderland against Sacramento Republic, via Getty Images)
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Jermain Defoe admits he wants to play as an orthodox centre-forward, even if he accepts that minutes on the field are the vital factor at this stage of pre-season.

Defoe was bought by Sunderland from MLS outfit Toronto last January charged with improving the Black Cats’ goal return, but has been forced to broaden his skill-set under Dick Advocaat’s stewardship.

I’m not a left winger, I’m a striker. But pre-season is about fitness.

Jermain Defoe

The England striker spent much of Sunderland’s run-in last season out wide, while he was used as a left winger during the first half of today’s friendly defeat to Sacramento Republic, before being moved inside into an orthodox 4-4-2 after the break.

But Defoe clearly doesn’t want to remain there next season, with the 32-year-old eager to spearhead Advocaat’s attack for his first full season in charge.

He told the Echo: “You want to play in your favourite position; the position you’ve been playing in for your whole career.

“I’ve never played on the left wing in my whole career. I’m not a left winger, I’m a striker.

“But pre-season is about fitness.

“You just want to see it as a start of things really.

“As players, you want to get through the pre-season and not pick up any injuries.

“But the most important thing is to be ready for that first game of the season against Leicester.”

While Sunderland’s fitness levels will have been improved by a second friendly outing of the summer, Defoe admits that the Black Cats should still have been coming away with a victory against Sacramento - currently in the third tier of the US football pyramid.

Sunderland were the better side for the opening 45 minutes, when Steven Fletcher came closest to breaking the deadlock with a header against the bar.

But following four changes at the interval, Sunderland were on the back foot for the vast majority of the second half.

“Yes, it’s all about minutes on the pitch, but it’s also about winning games,” said Defoe.

“The manager said it’s all about getting fitness and preparing for that first game of the season so we’ll see what happens.

“I know it’s pre-season, but you still want to try to win games.

“They were a decent team and they’re sharp, because they’re midway through their season.

“But it would have been nice to win every pre-season game and then for me, you can take that into the season.

“We just have to keep working hard, training hard, make sure everyone’s fit and then start the season strong.”