Jermain Defoe has given an insight into the sense of uncertainty and upheaval within the Tottenham dressing room during a transfer window he described as "a bit mad" for the club.
The England striker, who believes Tottenham Hotspur will “come good” under their new manager, Andre Villas-Boas, said he began to wonder whether team-mates would still appear at the club’s training ground from one day to the next.
Talents such as Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen, Hugo Lloris, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey have arrived but many familiar faces have gone, not least Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart.
“It was a bit mad,’’ said Defoe. “You walk into the changing rooms, see the lads and don’t know if you’re going to see them the next day. It’s funny. I had my wisdom tooth out one day, came in and Tom Huddlestone had gone to Stoke [although the move stalled]. Someone else went. I said to the lads: ‘I miss one day and all the players are gone!’’’
Defoe has become accustomed to change during his two spells at Tottenham.
“Managers come and go,’’ said Defoe yesterday. “At Tottenham, I have played under how many managers? – David Pleat, Jacques Santini, Martin Jol, [Juande Ramos], Harry Redknapp [and now Villas-Boas]. It is something you get used to. When the new manager comes in with different tactics it can be difficult.
“There will be a lot of changes and sometimes it takes time. Also it takes time for the manager to get used to the players. It is such a long season and I’m sure we will come good. We’ve good players and we’ve made some good signings.”
Defoe himself was linked with switches to Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa and Sunderland, an unsettling period. “I had two years left to my contract,’’ Defoe continued. “Every day I’d walk out of my house and fans would come up to me and ask whether I was staying. I would love to have turned round and say I was staying but I wasn’t too sure.
“Obviously the chairman [Daniel Levy] made it clear he wanted me to stay as the manager likes me. He [Villas-Boas] said I’d looked bright in training, had a good pre-season and he wanted me to stay. I love the club and the fans have been fantastic from day one. My family are in London and I love the boys at the club so I’ve signed a new contract and I’m settled now.”
It has been an emotional, draining year for Defoe, whose father was admitted to the Royal Marsden Hospital in the spring suffering from throat cancer. “From day one, when he was diagnosed, I was with him from the first meeting in the hospital. I’m only 29 and to deal with that was quite difficult. I had to tell dad, ‘It’ll be OK, you’ve just got to be positive, keep praying and have faith’.’’
When England gathered to train at London Colney before the Euros, Defoe approached Roy Hodgson about his stricken father. “I said to the manager could I go just for one afternoon and he said ‘make sure you see your dad every afternoon and be back for the meetings’.
'Every afternoon I got a car to go to the Royal Marsden where I’d spend a few hours with my dad. It was brilliant of the manager. It helps when you feel you can approach the manager and speak about other things and not just football.
“I’ve always known about cancer but to be around someone who has cancer and to see what it does in such a short space of time was mad. It does make you think about life and what is important.’’
Defoe’s father died during the European Championship. Three years earlier, Defoe had lost his half-brother Jade, who was assaulted in the street.
This July, his cousin Hannah died diving into a hotel swimming pool in St Lucia. “She was only 21. She was electrocuted in a pool. Something I’ve never heard of before. I was in America with Tottenham and had to fly home again to be with my family. It’s been hard.
“When that happened, you start to ask questions like, ‘Why is this happening?’ You think about your life. You don’t know for sure whether you will be here tomorrow. You have to be strong. The only time I am really at peace is when I am training and playing.
“When you’re young, nothing is more important than football but as you get older, you get married, have kids and lose people. Then you realise your family is more important. I remember Craig Bellamy saying there was more to life than football in terms of family. Show them you love them.
“Life is short. While you are here it is important to enjoy the good times. I don’t get nervous before games. I am living the dream. I have worked hard over the years. When I was a kid I always wanted to play for my country and now I’m here I will enjoy it.”
If Hodgson picks him against Moldova on Friday, Defoe will make his 50th England appearance, chasing a 17th international goal. He has a good scoring record but has never been considered first choice with England. “On the bench, I always watch the centre-halves and think what I can do if I come on. I want to have an impact and win for my country.
“Against Italy [in last month’s friendly in Berne] I came on at half-time and got the winner. You have to be patient, especially with the system with a lone striker. You don’t get as many touches in the game compared to if you were playing a 4-4-2. You cannot drop too deep as there will be no one up front.
“If you break quick, that’s where I come alive. We broke from a corner with James Milner, and I made the run. I was one-on-one with the defender [Ignazio Abate] in the box. It’s something I’ve worked on if the defender is in front to get the shot off – and it was nice to see my shot go in.”
Henry Winter, Telegraph.co.uk