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Sunday 18 March 2018

The striking issue: Jermain Defoe knows he can be the difference for Sunderland

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe admits he did not understand former manager Dick Advocaat's reasons for playing him as a winger.
Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe admits he did not understand former manager Dick Advocaat's reasons for playing him as a winger.

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe admits he was baffled by former manager Dick Advocaat's decision to play him out wide and was grateful when Sam Allardyce quickly restored his role as a central striker.

The England international was often played out on the left at the start of the season and as a result scored just two goals in six league matches.

However, following the Dutchman's resignation at the start of October new boss Allardyce instantly recognised Defoe's worth to the side was as centre-forward and he has been rewarded with eight goals in 15 league matches, including six in the last half-dozen games.

Defoe is certainly happier and it is reflecting in his play as he snatched an 89th-minute equaliser in a 2-2 draw at Liverpool.

"The previous manager used to play me on the left," he said.

"I've never played there in my whole career - not even at school - so that was a bit strange playing as a full-back when you have always been a forward.

"For me it was frustrating because your whole career you play as a forward - and not a number 10, a number nine - and all of a sudden you are asked to play a role you haven't before.

"I will always try to work hard for the team but it is not my natural game. It takes away your chances of getting your goals.

"Obviously you are not going to get goals when you are chasing full-backs, that is something I've never done before.

"But that was at the beginning of the season and this is now.

"Obviously this manager (Allardyce) has come in and even though I've never played under him he knows me, he's an experienced manager."

A return to the goals has raised hopes Defoe could make a late bid for England's 2016 squad.

For him to do that he will need to maintain his form until the end of the campaign which, if he does, will give 19th-placed Sunderland more than a chance of escaping relegation.

"I've not seen my name in the papers about the Euros," he added.

"I said a few weeks ago it is at the back of your mind but it is not something I am fully focused on to be honest. With something like that it is out of my hands anyway.

"All I have to do is try to keep playing well, keep getting my goals and see what happens.

"It is at the back of my mind but I'm focused on playing well for the club."

Defoe admits having seen what Premier League leaders Leicester are doing having staved off what appeared to be certain relegation with a brilliant run of results in the final three months of the previous campaign has given them encouragement.

"It is an unbelievable story. You look at clubs like that and think 'If they can do it why can't we do it?'" he said.

"The squad we have got is such a strong squad and the new players who have come in have been brilliant.

"I think it has shown in the last two games. The team spirit is there and if we continue to work hard together then hopefully we get the results and hopefully do it soon."

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