Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughIs Jermain Defoe the unluckiest English striker? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Is Jermain Defoe the unluckiest English striker? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Is Jermain Defoe the unluckiest English striker?

When the team news filtered through that Danny Welbeck would be partnering Wayne Rooney at the expense of Jermain Defoe against San Marino, the logic of the move was apparent. Against an outfit that would offer no space for England’s attackers, Roy Hodgson preferred the movement of Welbeck to in theory, stretch the opposition into places they would hitherto be unwilling to go to, rather than the more static Defoe.

Of course, the ploy worked with Welbeck scoring two deftly taken finishes. Indeed, in a season where he could find opportunities lacking for him at Manchester United due to the arrival of Robin Van Persie, the goals will have done Welbeck’s confidence no harm at all.

However, spare a thought for Defoe. The Tottenham striker has been in breathtaking form so far this season and has been a key man in the recovery of Andre Villas-Boas’ team from a shaky start, playing as a lone striker, a role that many often said was beyond Defoe’s capabilities. Indeed, the 30-year-old was in fact picked ahead of Welbeck for England’s opening World Cup qualifiers against Moldova, where he found the net, and Ukraine, where he was only denied a superb goal by a questionable decision from the referee.

So what did Defoe do to warrant Hodgson’s decision to select Welbeck on Friday night? Surely on a night where goals were to be the order of the day, Defoe’s knack of finding the net for over 10 years now was worth considering? However, the move simply seems to sum up the Spurs striker’s England career in a nutshell. No matter how in form he may be, for one reason or another, Defoe is never quite the first choice that he often should be for England.

Evidence of this stems back to 2004, when Defoe, in great form during his first spell at Tottenham should have been taken to the European Championships in Portugal that summer. Instead, the conservative Sven Goran-Eriksson chose to take the out-of-form Darius Vassell and after Rooney limped off injured against the hosts in the quarter-finals, it was Vassell who came on and produced a limp performance and miss the vital penalty in the shoot-out. That is not to say that Defoe would have scored or made an impact, simply that on form there was only one man to take on that plane.

Similarly, by the time the 2006 World Cup had arrived, Defoe was ignored at the expense of the uncapped for his club let alone his country Theo Walcott. In truth, Defoe had not had the greatest of club seasons for Tottenham, scoring only nine goals. However, that remained nine goals more than Walcott had managed and again, once Michael Owen was ruled out of the tournament with an injury, the like-for-like replacement in Defoe was nowhere to be seen.

Into Steve McClaren’s reign and initially Defoe was first-choice as Owen recovered from his serious knee injury. However, despite scoring goals in McClaren’s opening games, the ex-Middlesbrough manager seemed to crumble under the media pressure and would often resort to Peter Crouch rather than go with Defoe’s natural goalscoring instincts. The eventual failure to qualify for Euro 2008 robbed Defoe, who by then was scoring regularly for Portsmouth, of another major tournament.

Under Fabio Capello, Defoe finally appeared to have the backing of the manager and seemed to carve a niche for himself as a super-sub capable of finding the net. Indeed, after an impressive run of scoring for his country, Defoe finally made his appearance at a major tournament at the 2010 World Cup and after Emile Heskey was dropped from the starting line-up, Defoe was finally awarded his big chance with a start against Slovenia in England’s must-win final group game. The Beckton-born striker had scored 24 times for Spurs that season and showed exactly why by stealing in to score England’s winner and put them through to the next round, where they would of course be defeated by Germany.

However, as Capello began qualification for last summer’s Euros, Defoe appeared once again to be first-choice and he bagged a hat-trick in England’s opening qualifier against Bulgaria. However, at club level, Defoe’s form began to suffer as Harry Redknapp preferred to partner Peter Crouch and then Emmanuel Adebayor with Rafael Van der Vaart and Defoe slowly slipped away from the England reckoning. Though he did travel to Euro 2012, Defoe was only awarded a few minutes of action by Roy Hodgson in their opening game against France, with the far more inexperienced Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck and Andy Carroll chosen ahead of him.

Now we enter into a new qualification campaign and it appears like it is de ja vu for Defoe yet again. So what is the problem? In the past we were told that his link up play was not what it should be to succeed at international level. That may be the case but as his form for Tottenham this season has showed, Defoe is more than capable of playing the lone striker. Regardless, Defoe has 17 goals in 51 appearances for his country, the majority of which have come as a substitute, giving him one of the best goals per minutes played ratio in the squad.

Perhaps it is his age that counts against him, but Defoe is hardly calling for his zimmerframe at 30 years old. Whatever the reason is, Defoe looks unlikely to ever fulfil his potential at international level and it is fair to say that in some ways, it’s through no fault of his own.

Adam Mazrani