The press has been full of debate lately regarding as to whether England should start with Emile Heskey or our own Jermain Defoe up front.
I’m not opposed to Heskey. Whilst it’s true that when it comes to goalscoring he’s only marginally more dangerous than Steffen Freund, Heskey does bring the best out of those around him. Rooney has been outstanding since Heskey found himself back in the England team and with Gerrard and Lampard also regularly chipping in with goals, it really doesn’t matter if our centre forward never actually scores. No one used to question Peter Beardsley’s poor goalscoring record when he was setting up countless chances for Gary Lineker.
That said, if Defoe continues to net from his appearances from the bench, he’ll eventually get a chance to start alongside Rooney. He’s never going to offer anywhere near the physical presence of Heskey, but our little man has bulked up in pre-season and does look much stronger now and more able to hold up the ball. Once Defoe gets his chance, it’ll be up to him to prove that he should stay in the team.
This debate has reminded me of the many arguments that have raged between Spurs supporters regarding the relative merits of Defoe and Robbie Keane. I’ve seen a few points of view of late, in which it has been stated that previous managers of Tottenham have always favoured Keane over Defoe and never gave Jermain the chance to prove himself.
This is of course rubbish and highlights what poor memories fans can have. When Martin Jol took over at Tottenham, Defoe was his first choice striker in preference to Keane, for a good few weeks. Keane was sat on the bench and there was plenty of talk that he would be transferred.
Eventually though, Keane had managed to outscore Defoe from his cameos and was given his chance to start. Keane went on to score regularly whilst also contributing massively to our build up play (in a manner that Defoe was not able to match) for three seasons, until his eventual transfer to Liverpool. By that time Defoe had got tired of being a sub and had hotfooted it to Portsmouth.
Now they’re both back at the Lane and it’s a somewhat different story. Defoe is now stronger and is working harder. He’s contributing more to the team and scoring goals. Keane still looks a little short of confidence and not quite the threat he looked before leaving for the Scousers.
Given the choice now I’d choose Defoe over Keane, but that wouldn’t have been the case a couple of seasons ago. The two are currently being used in tandem, but with Crouch looking to force his way into the team via his cameos from the bench, ironically it could be Keane that makes way for him.