Better late than never for Jermain Defoe!
Ex-Spur 'buzzing' with belated 2008 League Cup medal
Tue 08 January 2019, 12:49|Tottenham Hotspur
Jermain Defoe lived and breathed every second of our League Cup triumph in 2007/08.
But, as detailed in this evening’s matchday programme, there were two things missing – the chance to play in a final with his beloved Spurs and a medal for playing his part in the run that ended in glory against tonight’s opponents Chelsea at Wembley on 24 February, 2008.
The opportunity to play in that final went forever when Jermain left us for Portsmouth in January, 2008. However, almost 11 years on, that precious medal is now in the Defoe household.
Earlier this season, Jermain was taking part in a routine interview with Sky Sports when he happened to mention that he never received formal recognition for his role in that memorable cup campaign.
Officials at the EFL heard this and decided to act. Just before Christmas, they sent a representative – Head of Youth Development, David Wetherall – to meet the striker at AFC Bournemouth's Vitality Stadium and formally hand over an official winner’s medal.
“I was absolutely buzzing when I received the medal,” said Jermain, who has this month joined Rangers on loan from the Cherries. “I phoned my mum straight away and I was so happy.
“The fact that I have the medal now is really special to me. It’s even more special because it’s Spurs. If it was another club I’d think ‘okay, it’s still great’ but the relationship I have with the club and the fans, how long I was there, the great times we had, means I value it that much more.
“I know people always talk about my goals but I’m now part of the history of the club. That’s special as well. That medal means a lot.”
‘JD’ remembers everything about the run to the final that started with 2-0 wins against Middlesbrough and Blackpool at the Lane before another 2-0 victory, this time at Manchester City. That set up the two-legged semi-final against Arsenal and the night of all nights against the Gunners in the second game at the Lane in January, 2008. But Jermain left us for Pompey later that month and missed February’s final.
He particularly recalls the clash with City in the quarter-final. In an eventful first half, Jermain scored but was then substituted after Didier Zokora was somewhat controversially shown a straight red card. The 10 men held firm and Steed Malbranque wrapped up the win in the second half.
“I remember every goal, and that one was a run across the near post to meet Azza’s (Aaron Lennon) cross,” he recalled. “Then I was sacrificed. I remember thinking as I was walking off ‘okay, this is a difficult place to come and get a result and now we need to defend’ and I had to accept that decision, I had to be professional.”
Jermain came off the bench in both legs of the semi-final against Arsenal, a 1-1 draw at the Emirates followed by the famous 5-1 win in the return at the Lane. Jermaine Jenas, Robbie Keane, Lennon, Malbranque and an own goal had our fans dancing down the High Road.
And then the nerve-shredding final against Chelsea. We started well but found ourselves 1-0 down at half-time after Didier Drogba curled home a free-kick. Dimitar Berbatov levelled with an ice cool penalty in the second half before Jonathan Woodgate headed home the winner in extra time.
“I watched the final at home,” said Jermain. “I had sweaty palms! And you know what? The most amazing thing for me watching that final was seeing Ledley King lift the trophy. When I think about all the players I played with, he was the best. And I mean the best. Even now, I’ve not seen anyone like Ledley. I was so pleased he had the chance to live that dream.”
Pick up a programme!
Our official matchday programme will be on sale around Wembley Stadium on Tuesday night for the usual £3.50, including:
• Main feature interview with Christian Eriksen.
• Exclusive column from Mauricio Pochettino.
• Golden Goal: Aaron Lennon’s memorable effort against Chelsea in 2006.
• Spurs Association: Connecting Chelsea’s Kepa Arrizabalaga to Fernando Llorente.
• More from Jermain Defoe after collecting his 2008 League Cup medal.
• Interview with Gus Poyet.
Jermain returned ‘home’ to Spurs a year after departing for Fratton Park, in January, 2009. He went on to make it into the top five of our all-time goalscorers with 143 goals in 363 appearances in all competitions before taking a new career turn and joining Toronto FC in the MLS in 2014. Since then he’s starred at Sunderland and joined Bournemouth back in the Premier League for the 2017/18 season and the first half of the current campaign.
Harry Kane has since overtaken Jermain’s 143-goal tally to leapfrog him into the club’s all-time top five. Jermain remains sixth. Harry has also joined Jermain on 23 European goals, a record that JD took from Martin Chivers in November, 2013.
It’s been a while now since he last pulled on a Spurs shirt, but the club has never left him. And, certainly judging by the reaction every time he lines up against us, our fans haven’t forgotten his contribution either. They never will.
Now 36, Jermain explained: “Sometimes I just feel it’s mad. I last played for Spurs almost five years ago. I’ve been at clubs since then and to get that love from the Spurs fans… I often ask ‘is that normal?’.
“The goals, the European record, even now I watch the ‘100 Club’ and my goals for Tottenham and I’m thinking ‘is that even me?’ because sometimes it feels like I’m watching someone else. They were just fantastic days. I loved them.
“You knew the importance of playing for Spurs, a massive club. The players brought into the club were good players and got to know the club’s history.
“And I’ll tell you now, when you leave a club like this, it’s hard to have that same feeling inside for another club. It’s been hard for me to feel that same love as I felt and still feel for Spurs.”
Read more from modern-day Spurs legend ‘JD’ in tonight’s official matchday programme – on sale around Wembley for £3.50.