View from the Bridge: Defo-e a good signing for Sunderland

Jermain Defoe.
Jermain Defoe.
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SUNDERLAND have managed a rare feat. They have made a signing that no one seems to disapprove of.

SUNDERLAND have managed a rare feat. They have made a signing that no one seems to disapprove of.

They were desperate to introduce a new striker, but not just any old striker. It would have been preferable to recruit no one than to come back with another David Healy – or Jozy Altidore.

The elders of the Wearside Whinging Association (WWA) have their work cut out to say something negative about the club’s enlistment of Jermain Defoe. We have every confidence that they will, but not just yet.

Defoe’s debut at Tottenham was his first game in three months and he looked a little rusty. But Sunderland looked more dangerous for his mere presence – that and the accompanying change of formation. They may have missed chances, but at least they created them in the first place.

It seems that Defoe wanted to play for Sunderland – other offers were available. For him, it was more than just a desire to leave Canada. Plus, from what we can gather (more of that soon), SAFC have made a very astute deal.

More good news; he is renowned for physical fitness. Football insiders say he is easily as fit as a flea, possibly even a fiddle. A butcher’s dog at the very least. This is in contrast to, for example, Michael Owen, when he went to Stoke City in a successful attempt at wasting their time and money.

Defoe is also a teetotaller. Trust me, they do exist. They’re not like leprechauns.

At 32 it is unlikely that Defoe will improve his game. But he is hardly decrepit; only three years older than Rooney, 18 months older than Adebayor, one year older than van Persie and almost five years younger than Drogba.

The most important factor is his scoring record, which is even better than is generally realised.

His career total of goals, including internationals, is currently 250. This is from 611 appearances, of which only 417 were starts (incredibly, of his 55 England appearances he only played a full game twice, but still scored 19 times). He has 124 Premier League goals – so far.

Unsurprisingly then, rival managers have expressed their envy at Gus Poyet’s success in landing Defoe. We have not yet heard any misgivings that could be taken seriously.

There is never a guarantee that any new player will be successful. The arrival of Tore André Flo in 2002 was given a similar blast on the trumpet, but was one of the worst signings in Sunderland’s history.

But if it all goes horribly wrong and Jermain Defoe is a disaster; when someone tells you that they said all along that it was a mistake, then remember to use the following foolproof riposte.

“No you didn’t.”

IT is unfortunate but true that the pleasure among Sunderland supporters at the entrance of Defoe, has almost been matched by the relief at the exit of Jozy Altidore.

To be blunt, he was a terrible signing.

In the event of Altidore being the only available striker at Sunderland, I say without exaggeration that I would rather have thrown one of the youths into the first team, or played a non-striker up front than the American.

This is on the basis that whoever played instead of Jozy could not possibly be any worse.

He has already attempted to waffle away his failure on Wearside with: “The time at Sunderland was a difficult one for a lot of reasons.

“A lot of things went on behind the scenes that made it very tough to get off the ground there.”

Something that might have helped him to get off the ground would have been to jump occasionally.

It is difficult to imagine what “went on behind the scenes” that could lead to a professional footballer appearing to lack even the most rudimentary skills of the game. He had a first touch that a mother could not forgive.

What “strengths” did the equally useless Paolo Di Canio see in him? And please don’t fall for the whopper that Di Canio was not to blame for all the rubbish he signed.

Was the stiff-armed Italian so bowled over by the one goal in 28 appearances that Jozy had previously slammed in for Hull City that he simply had to have him?

Nor was Altidore even a particularly hard worker, as has been proffered in his defence.

Typical was his final appearance, as a substitute against Hull. A 25 year-old playing for only half-an-hour is expected to barely stop running. Yet much of the time he was motionless, dreaming that the ball would somehow simply land at his feet (while onlookers were dreading such an event).

We have examined Defoe’s scoring record. Let’s now look at Jozy’s (cruel I know), which was one goal in 42 league appearances. If he fancies boasting, which I doubt, then he can always claim superior figures to those of Mart Poom, who took 58 league games to score one goal.

In fairness, it isn’t just Poom. Jozy has a better goal scoring record than any goalkeeper in Sunderland’s history.

The departure of this rank outsider for the Ballon d’Or seems to be a straight-ish swap for Jermain Defoe.

Hallelujah. This could be the only fond memory that Sunderland supporters will have of Jozy Altidore.

WE must take this opportunity to thank the national media for their diligence and unerring accuracy over the Jermain Defoe transfer.

The headline figure for the move is – for some reason – £14m, based on a supposed £80,000 per week salary for Defoe over three-and-a-half years.

The £14m figure was reported by the Express, Independent, Guardian, Metro, Sun, Star among others and based largely on conjecture and hearsay. But if any of that alleged fee was paid to Toronto FC, then less money must be going to Defoe.

The Express also said: “The £14m deal includes Defoe’s wages, meaning Sunderland are expected to pay Toronto around £3million.”

This would mean that Defoe’s contract is worth £11m, or £60,000 per week, a figure that the Mail quoted on Christmas Eve.

It is an unusual way for the press to look at a transfer. When for example Jack Colback left Sunderland in the summer it was reported as a free transfer. No one printed that Colback had made a “£10m move” (a figure based on a guess of a £40k per week salary on a five-year contract at Newcastle), it was just a free transfer.

Have journalists been trying to pour cold water on Defoe’s move by talking up the financial risk to Sunderland? Surely not.

Apart from anything else, if the total cost is based on Defoe’s supposed wages, shouldn’t the hacks be subtracting what the club is no longer donating to Altidore? They could, but it would produce a much less newsworthy figure.

That aside, the transfer has provided a jamboree of top journalism.

It began with another Daily Mail scoop on November 4 last year: “Jermain Defoe will join QPR in January as Harry Redknapp moves to sign former Tottenham striker for the third time.”

On January 8, the Daily Express reckoned: “Liverpool and QPR are tracking the 32-year-old, while Leicester are also interested.“However, leading bookmakers Ladbrokes have suspended betting on Defoe joining Crystal Palace.”

Back at the garden fete, they were still guessing how many midget gems were in the jar. This applied to both Defoe at Sunderland and Altidore in Toronto.

The Guardian said: “According to reports in Canada, the striker (Altidore) has signed a five-year deal that is worth around $30m (£20m).” This equates to £77,000 per week.

The Telegraph said: “To make that deal happen, they (Sunderland) will pay Defoe around £20k-a-week more than they were paying Altidore.”

If the Guardian and Telegraph are both correct, then Altidore was on either £40,000 or £60,000 per week at Sunderland, depending on what you believe Defoe is being paid now.

The Daily Mirror: “Defoe has penned a £3.2million-a-year contract.” So he’s back down to £60,000 a week

The Sun: “The Black Cats will give hitman Defoe a three-and-a-half-year contract worth £80,000 a week.”

The Toronto Star helped out with: “Toronto FC reportedly received $11 million (£7.7m) from Sunderland, but it’s still not clear how much of that was in cash and how much was in the form of Altidore.”

Neither is it clear if a word of that is true.

Are you confused? Don’t be. There are no financial facts to confuse because the media doesn’t have any facts to confuse. Between the national papers, they haven’t a clue what the details of the Defoe/Altidore deal are, but predictably, it hasn’t prevented them from pretending otherwise.

When football clubs thrash out a financial transaction, they have neither inclination nor reason to divulge its details to the national press; who in turn will print anything other than an admission that they don’t actually know much.

The moral of the tale: buy the Sunderland Echo.

DESPITE all that, the likelihood is that Jozy will be on a bewilderingly high salary in Canada. Imagine what they might pay someone who is actually any good.

Where do they get the money? Try as they might, Major League Soccer isn’t especially high profile. The only other member of the Toronto FC squad with a recognisable name is their captain and former Sunderland defender, Steven Caldwell.

However, we have looked at a list of the other personnel at Toronto and another name caught our eye, that of striker Bright Dike.

We’ve never heard of him; but what a name to live up to.

THE managerial vacancy at the Sports Direct Arena has set forth the usual amusing clichés we have come to expect and enjoy.

Unencumbered by any realisation that the rest of the country is laughing at them, the Toon (sic) army is trotting out the usual hot air about what it means to manage a moderate Premier League club.

They want a manager who: “Understands the Geordies.” So, jokes about accents aside, that would be anyone.

The fans claim to demand a “certain style of football.” But this is a fib that they share with Tottenham and West Ham. When their team wins they go home happy, regardless of the “style.”

If a manager does badly at Newcastle it is usually attributed, at least in part, to “not understanding what the Geordies are like.” However, Alan Shearer and the current patsy are Geordies, so this “reasoning” has never been explained – not least to themselves.

Typical was a caller to Saturday’s 6-0-6 (a call made while Newcastle were still playing against Southampton).

The fantasist in question wanted Steve Bruce: “Because he’s a Geordie.”

But what qualification did our man think a Newcastle manager should have?

He surmised: “I think you’ve got to have a Geordie.” You don’t say.

That would rule out Pep Guardiola, as well as Yorkshiremen Kevin Keegan and Joe Harvey, Scotsmen Doug Livingstone, Andy Cunningham and Frank Watt, Arthur Cox from the Midlands and County Durham lads Stan Seymour and Bobby Robson.

More drivel came on MOTD2 on Sunday from a Sun journalist and Newcastle fan Shaun Custis

He had already warmed up with the oft-told fallacy about Steve Bruce: “He was given a very hard time at Sunderland just because he was a Newcastle fan.”

He then moved on to suggest that doo-dah who is currently picking the Newcastle side could land the job full-time. This is because: “He’s the epitome of Geordie-ness.”

We could be unkind and say why we agree with that statement.

Mr Custis rambled on: “They (NUFC fans) don’t doubt that he (doo-dah) understands what the club’s all about.”

More cliché. More mythology.

The reality is that the previous manager understood the club and its supporters perfectly well.

That’s why he dumped them for Crystal Palace.