Let’s start this as plainly and a simply as possible: I do not think there is any chance that we will re-sign Jermain Defoe. I’m not saying that we have no interest in him, nor am I saying that he isn’t open to the idea, but as Lee Johnson stated, “a million and one” things will need to fall into place in order for it to happen, and the obvious one that springs to mind is the wage packet.
That being said, if you take away all potential reasons as to why Defoe coming back for a second spell at the Stadium of Light couldn’t happen, and just look at what effects that transfer would have if money were no object, you can see why it would be incredibly appealing for all sides.
First, from a basic footballing aspect, Jermain Defoe is an incredibly talented footballer, and whilst age is no longer on his side, he would immediately be considered as one of (if not the) biggest talents currently playing in League One. You would perhaps not expect him to start the majority of games – which in itself is a factor as to why I don’t think the transfer will happen – but I doubt you’d get many protests at the idea that even coming off the bench for 20 minutes each match would result in anything other than say 5-8 goals between now and the end of the season.
Even considering his age, Defoe has been largely written off upon signing for each club back in the UK since he returned from Toronto FC a wizened 32 year old, with most claiming his best days were behind him. Yet in the 169 games that followed, 63 goals were scored, and the majority of those for a largely abhorrent Sunderland side.
On top of that, we all know just how much Defoe keeps himself in good nick, and if you compared him now to say, Danny Graham when he re-signed (sorry Danny, glory days), you’d be forgiven for guessing who was older. Essentially, I don’t think fitness would be an issue here, what would be more of a concern is that he has only made two competitive appearances so far this season.
If we’re not expecting Defoe to start every match, what would be a massively important factor in his return would be his intelligence and leadership on the pitch. Simply put, players of Defoe’s pedigree are not found in League One, his mere presence could be the spark that adds a bit of steel and resolve to a team struggling to see a game out against 10-man Accrington or Shrewsbury.
Let’s face it, if football was ludicrous enough to have seen us bring on Jermain Defoe on 75mins at the Wham Stadium last weekend, it’d have been the Stanley defenders in need of new underwear by full time, more concerned about keeping one of the Premier League’s all time top goal scorers quiet, rather than seeing if they can lump it up top and reap the rewards.
Also to consider, and it’s a biggie, is the impact that having Defoe back would have on the fans. Now, I don’t subscribe to the belief that Defoe coming back would increase our gates substantially for the rest of the season, though undoubtedly you’d see a bump in numbers for a second debut, but the return of the former talisman would rekindle that memory in a lot of fans that we actually used to be a much higher standard of football club.
A player like Defoe, who does not sit well with accepting mediocrity in his own standards, would likely strive to drag the rest of the squad’s abilities as close to his as possible, and what better way to give yourself a platform to do just that, than to instantly ignite some of that passion his goal against Chelsea caused, back in the before times. In short, if you sign Defoe, the fans will be excited to see him, because we know what he has done for us in the past, and we know what he’s still capable of – and we’re all suckers for a bit of footballing romance, I for one will never shake the need to sample just a morsel of those games against Chelsea and Everton again.
There is of course, the old adage, “never go back”, and Sunderland came very close to seeing what that’d be like with another former hero, when Kevin Phillips was reportedly close to re-joining SAFC in 2006 before staying in the Midlands with West Brom. We’ll of course never know how a second spell would’ve gone for Phillips, it may have been a total disaster and that strange fear we all have of a legend tarnishing their legacy could’ve come to fruition.
But that brings us to another point, Phillips ended up spending the twilight years of his career getting Crystal Palace and Leicester promoted to the Premier League, scoring vital goals in a reduced role, all at between the ages of 39-40, which seems nice and coincidental.
Personally, if we are able to do it, if we can safely pay his wages, and he’s happy to play the role of the wise older head, potentially with a coaching role on offer, then it’s an absolute no brainer of a decision. Light the beacons, bring him home and all that malarky. It almost certainly won’t happen, but if there’s even just a sliver of a chance, we should at least go for it, he might be that touch of class and quality we need to get over the line.