Wise Men Say: Defoe’s been huge catalyst for change

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WHEN Jermain Defoe signed for Sunderland, I’m happy to admit that I was sceptical.

There were some valid questions; how would he fit in to Poyet’s system, a system that showed little sign of being altered by the Uruguayan? It was a lot of money to spend on one player, and was he the type of player we needed if we were to persist with a long-term plan?

As it’s turned out, Jermain Defoe has been the catalyst for change and progression.

It feels as if things have fast forwarded a bit since the former Spurs striker arrived. We’ve become more aggressive, we’re higher up the pitch, we’re pressing more. The fact is if Sunderland don’t do that with Defoe in the team, then he’ll become isolated and almost irrelevant.

While he hasn’t exactly been taking games by the scruff of the neck, and we wouldn’t expect that from him, his influence has made Sunderland a better side simply by just being there.

The pay-off has turned out to be two-fold.

Not only are Sunderland much improved as a unit, but Defoe has brought the goals some hoped for and many expected. As it stands, it looks as though we’ve got ourselves an incredible deal.

When Defoe strode through the Swansea backline and lashed a low drive past Fabianski, in among the cheers of Sunderland’s fans you could just imagine the groans of those who support other relegation-threatened sides; why couldn’t we have signed him?

It was mooted by some that he could be the difference between Premier League life and death for us, and, at the moment, Jermain Defoe seems to be administering some pretty effective CPR. Long may it continue.

I’d like to give a mention to Anthony Reveillere.

In my lifetime, we’ve seen a few great players come to Sunderland towards the end of their careers. Bolo Zenden, Stefan Schwarz and Steve Bould immediately spring to mind, and I’m happy to put the Frenchman into the bracket.

He oozes class, and it’s easy to see why he’s played most of his career at the highest level.

It’s worth remembering that, up until his return from injury, he’d only played around 25 minutes in his favoured right-back slot. He was then tasked with covering for Patrick Van Aanholt. This is a guy who was without a club, hadn’t played in English football and is in the twilight of his career.

Some questioned whether he could fulfil the role of a more advanced right-back. His cross for Connor Wickham’s goal against Burnley last week was perfect, and he’s had no problems whatsoever covering ground.

He’s a technically excellent footballer and it’s a pleasure to see him in red and white.

He and Wes Brown are two players who Sunderland should be looking to retain come the summer. They’re experienced professionals and you need these types in your squad.

They might not play every week in six-12 months time, but we’ve seen over the years just how influential these types of players can be. We certainly felt the pinch after they left, and we shouldn’t let it happen again.

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.