Defoe hits 100 - and targets mentor Les Ferdinand’s league record
IT WAS almost so poetic and, for 15 minutes, it looked like Jermain Defoe’s 100th Tottenham goal would be the winner - the crucial strike that completed another comeback and took Spurs back into the top four, for 48 hours at least.
Unfortunately, West Brom had other ideas and, having torn up the beautifully-written script, Simon Cox’s sublime equaliser left Defoe to reflect on a bittersweet afternoon, as his personal landmark was contrasted by Tottenham’s dismay at yet another debilitating draw at White Hart Lane.
In many ways, that sums up the England forward’s season.
Defoe’s strike against Albion was also his 100th Premier League goal, making him the 20th centurion since the top flight’s rebirth in 1992.
And yet, this prestigious goal-scoring milestone has come in the midst of his worst top-flight campaign ever, a season when he has netted just three league goals.
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Is that an unfortunate coincidence? Not entirely. Having finally reached his ton, the 28-year-old concedes that his 100th Tottenham goal has been by far his hardest, due to the weight of expectation that he has placed upon his own shoulders.
“It’s been on my mind a lot to be honest,” said Defoe. “I wanted to do it in the West Ham game and I had that t-shirt on underneath - and I missed a couple of chances. I haven’t worn it since then – I put it back in the boot of my car!
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“I remember years ago when I was at Bournemouth, I scored in nine games in a row. I went into the 10th game and people started talking about records, and I was missing chances and it was on my mind then.
“But I suppose, for me, that’s just because I want to do well. I love my football and Tottenham is a great club. To score 100 goals for this club is even more special.
“It was nice to do it style - with my left foot as well! In the first half I nearly got close to a couple of balls that were whipped across the six-yard box by Gareth [Bale], and again it was on my mind: ‘Come on, I just want to get this chance, I just want to get this chance’. When it went in, as you can imagine, it was a great feeling.”
The moment may have been long overdue but it has arguably been worth the wait because, while Defoe’s 100th Spurs goal and his 100th Premier League goal arrived simultaneously, the significance of the strike did not end there – it was also Tottenham’s 1,000th goal in the Premier League.
“The way it’s all turned out, it’s special,” he said. “It’s been good for me and I enjoyed the day, but obviously if we had got the three points it would have been better.”
In the end, it was a conversation with Les Ferdinand last Friday, 24 hours before the clash with Albion, which heralded the breakthrough.
“We had a little chat. He knows what I’m like,” said Defoe. “Even in training, I want to score goals and when I don’t I get frustrated.
“He said: ‘just keep it going, you’ll get the goal and try not to think about it because, in life, when you want something so badly it just never comes. Just keep playing your game, don’t even think about it. Just be Jermain Defoe’.
“I’ve always talked to Les. Him and Tim Sherwood have been with the young lads a lot this season so I’ve not really had time to sit down with him and really analyse my performances, but Les is great.
“He’s been there, he’s said that me that he’s been through stages in his career where he’s been scoring goals and it seems like the easiest thing in the world. And then he had a patch here, I think when Glenn Hoddle was the manager, when he got injured and he came back into the team and he couldn’t really regain the form that he showed before he got injured, and how it’s difficult. But that’s when you’ve got to be a strong character and keep working hard and try to turn it all around.”
Now, having taken advantage of Ferdinand’s expertise and experience, Defoe is targeting his mentor’s league tally of 149 goals, achieved during his time at QPR, Newcastle and Tottenham.
“I’m 28 now, I still feel fit, I still feel sharp,” said Defoe. “I want to try to beat Les, he got 149. He said to me ‘oh you’ll smash it’ but I don’t know. You’ve got to go out there and do it at the end of the day.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in properly yet. I’ve just worked hard through my whole career. I’ve always done the right things and I always look after my body.
“When I finish football I’m going to look back and think to myself ‘you know what, I’ve done everything I could have done’ in terms of goals and working hard for the team, and trying to improve and just doing well for my club.
“To get 100 Premier League goals, for me, is the best feeling in the world. My name’s up there in the list so I’m happy.”