Jermain Defoe crucial to Sunderland as West Ham link won’t go away

Jermain Defoe is crucial to Sunderland's survival hopes. Picture by FRANK REID

Jermain Defoe is crucial to Sunderland's survival hopes. Picture by FRANK REID

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Jermain Defoe is Sunderland’s “crucial” figure – and that’s just how the relegation fighters expect it to remain.

The North East Football Writers’ Player of 2016 started this year in stunning fashion with two penalties as the Black Cats twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with Liverpool.

I was stood watching thinking ‘go the other way, go the other way!’

JOHN O’SHEA

West Ham are interested in the 34-year-old, who began his career with his local club. Reports last night suggested they had made contact with Sunderland only to be quickly rebuffed. They are said to be willing to pay £5m.

Also yesterday, the Wearsiders were confronted with unwanted headlines from pundit, Chris Sutton, TELLING Defoe to demand a move back to the East End. But Sunderland captain John O’Shea is in no doubt about not just Defoe’s commitment to the cause.

The 35-year-old says Defoe, who has deputised as skipper throughout the season, possesses the class and the inner strength the Black Cats need.

“It’s a combination of both, talent and mental strength,” said O’Shea.

“He has the belief in his ability and he has the experience too, he’s been there and done it.”

Defoe continues to do it – as he demonstrated on Monday when he demonstrated nerves of steel.

He buried his first penalty into Simon Mignolet’s bottom-right corner midway through the first half and did exactly the same six minutes from time, despite O’Shea’s reservations.

“It was incredible, his coolness to put the penalty away down the same side,” said the centre-half.

“There are mind games, do you go the same way, do you change?

“I was stood watching thinking ‘go the other way, go the other way!’.

“Thankfully JD knew what he was doing.

“He’s been there and done it and he’ll be crucial for us for the rest of the season.”

On the topic of mind games, the Black Cats will trust that the latest story about their 11-goal striker does not affect him.

Forthright 5 Live pundit Sutton, writing in the Daily Mail, suggested the Londoner should engineer the transfer.

Sutton said: “I can’t see why Defoe would want to stay at Sunderland.

“The club is up for sale and David Moyes has little money to spend.

“Defoe is not getting any younger and has the chance to return to the club where it all started for him.

“He may have to front up to Moyes and force the deal through himself – and Sunderland can hold out for a reasonable fee.

“West Ham have lacked a goalscorer and may have to pay over the odds.

“But even if they have to spend £10 million it is smart business.

“Defoe would guarantee that West Ham stay up comfortably and will be useful for at least another season or two.”

The former England striker who has played almost every second of Sunderland’s Premier League programme is set for a Saturday off this week with a rest in the FA Cup third round tie with Burnley.