The big games keep coming thick and fast and Jermain Defoe is confident we have the strength of character to enjoy success in both the FA Cup and the Premier League. By Jon Rayner...
Jermain Defoe has put all thoughts of Wembley to the back of his mind tonight – but admits he is desperate to return to the national stadium and right the wrongs of our last outing there.
A Wembley semi-final awaits the winners of this evening’s FA Cup sixth round tie against Bolton Wanderers and that incentive alone will ensure a mouth-watering and entertaining game at the Lane.
Our England striker has made more appearances and scored more goals in the FA Cup than any other member of our current squad – having netted 15 times in 27 matches, including two in our fifth round replay win over Stevenage here 10 days ago.
And Defoe is hoping to add to that tally this evening, with two more goals needed to earn his place in our list of top 10 all-time greatest goalscorers. Naturally the focus is fully concentrated on beating Owen Coyle’s side tonight and Jermain is hoping to achieve that in order to make amends for our last FA Cup semi at Wembley, when we lost so disappointingly to Portsmouth in April, 2010.
“It’s going to be a tough game against Bolton, they always make it difficult for teams and even though they might not be having the best season in the league, that goes out of the window tonight because the FA Cup brings out the best in teams,” said JD, who has 15 goals to his name in all competitions this season.
“They’ve got good, strong players who always give us a good game. We beat them quite convincingly in the league here earlier in the season, but they had a player sent off that day so it’s difficult to use that as a marker for tonight.
“All we have to do is play our own football and concentrate on our own performance,” he added. “It’s down to us as players to do our jobs and I’m confident if we can do that, then we can make it to Wembley again.”
Victory over the Trotters would see us back at the national stadium for the fourth time in five years, having reached the League Cup Final twice and then the aforementioned FA Cup semi with Pompey.
Jermain was substituted after just an hour in that game against his former club, as we lost 2-0 in extra time and he feels an appearance at Wembley would give everyone at the club a huge boost as well as giving us the chance to put right that Portsmouth result.
“It’s a massive game this evening because whoever wins gets to play at Wembley and that’s what we want,” he said. “It would lift the whole place after our recent results in the league and give us a real boost ahead of Wednesday’s game against Stoke here.
“The players, staff and fans all want that day out at Wembley and of course we want to go on and win the competition. It’s been a long time since this club last won the FA Cup, back in 1991, and with our great history in the tournament, it’s about time we won it again.
“We had an opportunity a couple of years ago, but we let ourselves down against Portsmouth. We just didn’t play well on the day and it was a huge setback. That’s why we are so determined to overcome Bolton’s challenge and then, hopefully, win the semi as well.”
Read the full interview in our matchday programme - if you aren't at the Lane, it's available to purchase online HERE...