Defoe savors challenge of keeping Sunderland in Premier League
New signing Jermain Defoe is relishing the pressure of being asked to fire Sunderland out of Premier League trouble.
The 32-year-old striker completed a swift return to English football last week after an 11-month spell in the MLS with Toronto when the Black Cats struck a swap deal for United States international Jozy Altidore.
Defoe made his debut against former club Tottenham in a 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane on Saturday, a game in which he was unable to maintain his record of scoring on every debut earlier in his career.
However, while that reverse left the club just a point clear of the drop zone, Defoe is confident he can handle the responsibility of dragging them to safety.
He said: "There’s always been pressure, to be honest, on me from when I was young. When I was at West Ham, I came through young, then I signed for Tottenham at a young age, and you are brought in to score goals, it’s as simple as that.
"I think it’s a good pressure. You have got to enjoy it at the end of the day, you have got to embrace it because at the end of the day, I love playing football, I love scoring goals, and I always believe if I get the chances, I’ll score.
"It’s not a case of thinking about the pressure too much, you have got to go out there and just enjoy it, just enjoy playing football and hopefully the goals will come."
Defoe has scored goals throughout his career and managed 11 in 16 league appearances for Toronto during an injury-hit stay in Canada.
Eyebrows were raised in certain quarters when the thirty-something Londoner was handed a three and a half-year deal by Sunderland after being wooed by former team-mate Gus Poyet, but he still feels he has it in him to find the back of the net in the Premier League.
Defoe said: "I still feel sharp, to be honest. I have always looked after myself. It’s funny, in football, people talk about age, but I think I feel a lot stronger than I felt a few years ago.
"As you get older, you know your body. You know what your body needs, you know how hard to train, you know what days you need to rest and save yourself for the games.
"But on a matchday, I always feel sharp, I always feel fresh and I still feel I am quick enough and I still feel like I have got a lot of goals in me.
"As a forward, you are judged on scoring goals and you want to come and make a difference and score goals and help the team move up in the table, so obviously, that’s what I’m here to do, and I’m looking forward to it.
"It’s another challenge and I am really looking forward to it. I believe that we are good enough to go on a good run in these next few games, and hopefully we can do that."
The Black Cats are in FA Cup fourth round action against Fulham this weekend, a fixture which will give the new boy a further chance to integrate himself into the team, but then face a crucial home game in the league against Burnley.
Defoe is desperate to prove he has still got what it takes sooner rather than later, although his ambitions stretch significantly further than easing his new employers out of their current difficulties.
He has 55 caps and 19 goals to his name for England, and he is not yet ready to call time on that phase of his career.
Defoe said: "I would like to represent my country again. It’s the best thing in the world, playing for your country and putting that shirt on.
"To play for your country, it’s based on merit, so if I am scoring goals, I would like to think that I would get an opportunity to do that again."