27 February 2014|Tottenham Hotspur
The long and successful goalscoring career of Jermain Defoe as a Spur drew to a conclusion on an emotional evening at the Lane on Thursday night.
Our popular striker heads for pastures new as he embarks on the next chapter in his footballing life with Toronto FC, and as he waves farewell to the place he has called home for most of the last 10 years, he does so as the fifth greatest goalscorer in the club’s 131-year history.
When Jermain walked through the doors of Spurs Lodge for the first time, moving from West Ham United to join us in February, 2004, he had a reputation as a raw 21-year-old with sharp goalscoring instincts who knew exactly where the back of the net was.
Jermain quickly demonstrated those qualities, scoring on his debut against Portsmouth before adding goals in his next two games against his first club Charlton Athletic and Leicester City. And the goals just continued to flow.
Game after game, season after season his tally increased and before long, he found himself among illustrious company on our all-time goalscorers list, in fact surpassing most of them. Renowned strikers including the likes of Gary Lineker, Clive Allen, Billy Minter and Teddy Sheringham were left in Jermain’s wake as the goals kept coming and he continued climbing the charts.
When he boards the flight to Canada over the next couple of days, he will be able to take stock and reflect on the 143 goals he scored in our colours, leaving him behind four of the greatest players this club has ever seen – Cliff Jones (159 goals), Martin Chivers (174), Bobby Smith (208) and Jimmy Greaves (266). Let’s not forget that he is also our top scorer in European competition with 23 goals.
It is going to take something special to usurp Defoe from his place in the top five and, as he says his goodbyes, he knows what he has achieved is something to be extremely proud of.
“All the legends, all the great names that have played for this club and when I look at the list of the top 10 all-time great goalscorers, to be in there among those great players is just so special,” explained the now 31-year-old.
“It’s always going to be there, no-one can take that away from me and to do it for this club as well, it’s mad really, crazy when I think about it,” added Jermain, who knew that the currency of goals was always how his time at Spurs would be defined when he first arrived.
“I remember when I first signed and as a forward, obviously you get judged on scoring goals. I came from West Ham as a young lad, there was a lot of expectation because I scored goals there and while on loan at Bournemouth.
“I knew a lot of eyes were on me and people expected me to score goals. We spoke about the debut, getting off to a good start which I did, and then added a few more in the next couple of games, so it was an unbelievable start. When I look back, they were great moments.”
Unfortunately however, there were disappointments along the way, not least when he wasn’t getting games in the side and made the tough decision to move to Portsmouth in January, 2008. Within a year he was back though, Harry Redknapp re-signing him and giving Jermain the opportunity to rekindle his love affair with the supporters and the club.
“I left Spurs, I was playing games and I was happy, but it was difficult leaving because I had a special relationship with the fans and all my friends were in London,” he explained. “But coming back after a year - I remember walking back out onto the pitch - it was special. I was looking forward to coming back, putting the shirt on again. The reception I got from the fans that day was fantastic, I’ll never forget that.
“I’ve always had a special relationship with the Spurs fans. As a professional you can’t always play well and you can’t always score goals. Sometimes you go through difficult times and you know you’re not playing well, but even then the fans were always with me, they have been great and I am really going to miss them."
While the silverware never arrived during his time with us – he was unfortunate to miss out on a League Cup medal in 2008 as our success that year coincided with his departure to Portsmouth – Jermain has certainly seen plenty of change and progression over the years here.
“In the last 10 years I’ve seen lots of changes, new players coming in, players going, younger players coming through our youth system, developing and getting the experience they need. There has been the Champions League campaign that we had, the move to the new Training Centre...so much has happened on and off the pitch.
“It’s been special for my family as well, being at the games, seeing everything that I’ve done here and then away from the football, around the training ground, the people at the stadium – it’s just a fantastic environment and I’ll definitely miss the club.
“I’ve been here a long time, all my friends are here and a lot of the boys have been here a while too now. The likes of Aaron, Daws, Ledley is still around the place, Danny Rose, Naughts and Walks – it’s going to be hard to leave my friends. They’re going to take me out for dinner which is great – that might get emotional!
“Of course it will be difficult when I leave but that’s part and parcel of playing football, players move on. I’m also looking forward to the next challenge to be honest. I suppose it would have felt weird going to another Premier League club and playing against Tottenham!”
That challenge of course will come with Toronto FC, the ambitious and forward-thinking Canadian club which competes in the MLS. Managed by former Spur Ryan Nelsen, who had a brief spell here between January-May, 2012, they have signed Jermain and the likes of USA international midfielder Michael Bradley as they look to challenge the big guns in the MLS. Not only that, but they have a prestigious friendly lined up at their BMO Field stadium on July 23 with a top Premier League side – a certain Tottenham Hotspur FC!
“That’s going to be weird,” said Jermain. “I spoke to the lads about it, it will be mad. Daws trying to kick me like he does in training every day!
“Toronto is a club that wants to go places and they’re proving that with the players they’ve brought it. It’s a fantastic city with lovely people who are so focussed not just on football but on their sport in general. They enjoy it, embrace it and to be a part of it, it’s special for my family and I.
“I’m really looking forward to going...but leaving Spurs is going to be tough. It’s been truly amazing here and I just have to say thank you to each and every one of you.”