It was 1987. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Coventry defied the odds to beat Tottenham in one of the most thrilling FA Cup finals in living history, and it was also the year that Aston Villa were last relegated from the top-tier of English football.
However, thanks to a late brace by Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe on Saturday, relegation almost appears to be inevitable for the Villans.
Shoot takes a look at one of the Premier League’s best ever strikers, who might have just inflicted the defeat on the West Midlands side that consigns them to Championship football next season.
Where did it all begin for Defoe?
Defoe was born in Beckton, East London, to a large and religious working class family. The striker, however, had only one love; football. His ability was clear as an infant and by the age of 14 he was accepted into the FA National School at Lilleshall – the same academy that greats such as Michael Owen had graduated from.
Two years later he made the controversial decision to leave the club who enrolled him into the national school, Charlton, and made the move to East London and West Ham who paid £1.4 million in compensation for the youngster’s signature.
The following season, he was on the move again. This time to second division side AFC Bournemouth on loan, where he flourished. Impressive statistics of 18 goals in 29 league matches put him firmly in the spotlight. Maybe he could be the next big striker in English football?
What happened next?
On his return, it was no big surprise that he was thrown straight into the Hammers’ first team and played an influential part in West Ham’s seventh-placed finish in 2001/2002. However, the following season ended in misery as the Hammers were relegated.
This aggravated Defoe. The Premier League was a must for the young prospect. How was he going to send a message to then England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson in the first division?
In January 2004, he joined Tottenham for a fee worth £6 million initially, rising to £7 million. He became a White Hart Lane favourite as he played an indispensable part in the Spurs’ front line, so much so that as the calendar year came to a close, he was voted the Player of the Year for 2004 and had signed a new four-and-a-half deal by April 2004.
Now being referred to as a sophisticated Premier League player, maybe it was time to move on. Harry Redknapp, his former manager at West Ham, came calling for Defoe to move to Portsmouth. It was here where he played a key part in Pompey’s European football run. However, following Redknapp’s departure to Spurs and Portsmouth suffering financially already, it was too tempting for Defoe not to move back to North London where he was idolised as a legend.
How much of a shock was his brace against Villa?
Not a great surprise. Defoe is vastly experienced and a real goal poacher who knows how to convert his chances into goals. He also has the ability to step up and be counted in the big games – for instance his fantastic volley on the edge of the 18-yard box against Newcastle on Easter Sunday last year helped lead his side to victory against thier nearest rivals.
With him scoring over 130 Premier League goals in his career, it seems inevitable that the London-born striker will be in the top 10 Premier League goalscorers’ list by the end of his career, especially with him having a few years left yet.
How does he perform in representing his nation?
Jermain Defoe and England have had an unpredictable relationship since he emerged on the scene as a youngster at West Ham. He made his debut initially under Sven-Goran Erikson back in 2004, when he replaced Darius Vassell in a 1-0 defeat against Sweden.
However, despite featuring on frequent occasions for the Three Lions throughout the following two years, Defoe received some shattering news in May 2006: he was not going to the World Cup, while 17-year-old Theo Walcott was.. Even more heartbreaking were the words of the Swede: “He was not good enough.”
So maybe Defoe was happy to see Sven leave so he could kick-start his international career again. Under Steve McClaren he became a key individual in the side that failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Still no major tournament for him.
So there was a sigh of relief when he was included in the team for South Africa and the 2010 World Cup. His impact and experience was priceless and the attacker scored a instrumental goal in the final group match against Slovenia.
Why is he so dangerous?
Despite not possessing the height of an average target man (he stands at only 5ft 7in) Defoe has the strength to hold up the ball. His height also enables him to run past defenders effectively and he regularly creates opportunities for himself.
His shooting is also admirable as well. He can shoot from any angle and distance meaning that he can always be dangerous on the counter and habitually takes shots which test the goalkeepers.
His experience and leadership is also commendable and he can tutor youngsters meaning that he is a fantastic addition around the training complex.
Super Stat: His goals on Saturday were his first in the Premier League at the Stadium of Light since August 22.