Gareth Southgate has claimed Jermain Defoe has a point to prove for England after calling the Sunderland striker out of the international wilderness.
Defoe has been recalled to the England squad by manager Southgate for the double-header against Germany and Lithuania, having last played for his country in November 2013.
Southgate’s decision has been influenced by a striker crisis that has meant he has not been able to pick Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck over injuries and fitness issues, while Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott have been left out.
Former England manager Roy Hodgson overlooked Defoe because of his age and Southgate believes the 34-year-old, who has 19 international goals, is eager to prove people wrong.
“We have got injuries in the forward area and it was important not to look at somebody’s age and dismiss them from your thinking,” said Southgate.
“Jermain’s goalscoring record year after year is phenomenal, but, in particular, this season, in a team that isn’t creating as many chances as other teams, his strike rate is outstanding. I didn’t want to just look at his age and think he’s finished with England.
“You get young players with a point to prove and older players with a point to prove, and he still thinks that. He warrants the call up, I have to look at getting results short, medium and long term.”
Walcott has 17 goals in all comps for Arsenal this season. More than any other player Gareth Southgate has picked.
— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) March 16, 2017
Asked whether Defoe, who will be 35 next summer, is a realistic candidate to make England’s World Cup squad for Russia, Southgate replied: “It’s impossible to say for any of the players. I want to create competition for players – we are doing that in different ways. It can’t be a comfortable environment where people think they are going to be in every time. We need to drive performance and one way to do that is through selection.”
On the decision to hand first senior call-ups to Southampton duo Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse, Southgate added: “ They’ve earned their opportunity. Their performances with the Under-21s over a long period of time have been outstanding. To hold them back, even though they will definitely be with the Under-21s for the summer, wouldn’t be the right thing.”
Right, that's that. Here's Southgate discussing why he picked Defoe:
— England (@England) March 16, 2017
Intriguing on Rooney
Southgate suggests Rooney's absence is not entirely down to injury - "I've talked with Wayne, think there's a chance he's fit for the weekend."
On selecting Ward-Prowse and Redmond
"To hold them back wouldn't be the right thing. It's a good message for that U21 squad, that there's a pathway."
On rumours of banning nights out
"The opportunity to get out would be lovely but I've looked at the schedule and don't see a lot of time frankly."
Who is captain without Henderson and Rooney?
"We will look over the week. We have some experience players in that squad with Cahill captaining Chelsea and Hart has over 60 caps.
"There are good leaders among the youngsters as well.
"What's more important is developing more leaders around this squad".
"I didn't see him playing in the Germany match. That's a really tough call on him, one I don't expect him to be chuffed to bits about, but I wanted to look at a couple of others. He's still very much in our plans, and can force his way back.
"Carroll and Welbeck have not played enough. Welbeck is a player I really like."
"He has a point to prove and has been in excellent form. He's a natural finisher.
"It's important not to look at someone's age and dismiss them from your thinking. His strike-rate is fantastic."
His press conference is getting under way.
Really struggle to see how Walcott, who has 17 goals this season (including against Chelsea, Manchester City and Bayern Munich), can not be deemed good enough for this squad.
The squad in full
Goalkeepers: Hart, Heaton, Forster
Defenders: Bertrand, Cahill, Clyne, Jones, Keane, Shaw, Smalling, Stones, Walker
Midfielders: Alli, Antonio, Barkley, Dier, Lallana, Lingard, Livermore, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling, Ward-Prowse
Fowards: Redmond, Defoe, Rashford, Vardy
Some big calls
Jermain Defoe, Nathan Redmond, Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Jake Livermore are the most surprising selections.
Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Daniel Sturridge, and the injured captain Wayne Rooney are the biggest names to miss out.
Breaking: Defoe in, Walcott out
— England (@England) March 16, 2017
A reminder that the two matches this squad will play are the friendly away at Germany on Wednesday March 22, and then the World Cup qualifier at home to Lithuania on Sunday March 26.
England are currently top of Group 4 with 10 points from their four matches.
Squad announcement imminent...
Not a surprise?
On one hand, Jermain Defoe's expected inclusion is a fair reflection of his talents. Aside from the injured Harry Kane, he is the leading English goalscorer in the Premier League:
On the other, our resident England squad-watcher Ali Tweedale had him down as an outsider in yesterday's England squad player rankings:
Defoe's last game
Defoe hasn't turned out for the Three Lions since 2013, when he came on as a 66th minute sub for James Milner in a not especially memorable 2-0 defeat to Chile.
Defoe back in the England setup
Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe is expected to be named in Gareth Southgate's first England squad as permanent manager.
Here's the background to what could be a huge call:
Gareth Southgate is facing an attacking headache ahead of naming his first squad as permanent England manager.
Handed the reins on a full-time basis after an impressive four-match temporary stint, the 46-year-old next week takes charge as Sam Allardyce's full-time successor for the first time.
Wednesday's tough-looking friendly at world champions Germany kicks off the reign before Lithuania arrive at Wembley on Sunday, March 26 for a World Cup qualifier.
The national team coaches reportedly met to discuss call-ups at St George's Park on Wednesday morning ahead of the following day's squad announcements.
The teams will be drip fed out until the senior squad is announced at 2pm, when the strikers selected will be particularly interesting given the way injuries have restricted Southgate's options.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane is facing around six weeks out with ankle ligament damage sustained in Sunday's FA Cup quarter-final against Millwall, while Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge has not played since February 4 due to illness and a hip complaint.
England captain Wayne Rooney is also a major doubt with a knee complaint that will keep the country's all-time top scorer out of United's Europa League last-16 second leg against Rostov.
"Rooney is injured," United boss Jose Mourinho said on Wednesday.
"He had some kick in his knee area, so he can't even come out to the pitch. He stays inside the medical department."
United team-mate Marcus Rashford and Leicester's Jamie Vardy remain available to Southgate, while West Ham's Andy Carroll is reportedly under consideration four-and-a-half years after winning the last of his nine caps.
Sunderland's Jermain Defoe, last capped in November 2013, and uncapped Burnley striker Andre Gray have been mentioned as potential options, while Arsenal's Danny Welbeck will be another if he has overcome illness.
Everton playmaker Ross Barkley's upturn in form means he is in line for a first call-up since Euro 2016, but Liverpool's Jordan Henderson, who has captained England in Rooney's absence, is out with a foot injury.
There is a question mark over Arsenal midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain due to a slight hamstring problem, so too Jack Wilshere having lost his place in the Bournemouth starting line-up in recent matches.
Danny Rose's knee injury keeps the Tottenham left-back out, although Ryan Bertrand, Aaron Cresswell and Leighton Baines are alternatives. Luke Shaw is also available, despite only featuring twice for Manchester United since November 30, and remains eligible for England Under-21s.
Southampton duo Nathan Redmond, the Under-21s player of the year, and Young Lions captain James Ward-Prowse are pushing for first senior call-ups, but Southgate may be dissuaded with the Under-21 European Championship looming large.
Middlesbrough's Ben Gibson played for Southgate's Under-21s and is said to be on the manager's radar, while Phil Jones' displays in Manchester United's defence will not have gone unnoticed.
West Ham's Michail Antonio will be hoping to receive another England call-up having yet to make his international debut.