Jermain Defoe hoping fatherood can provide new focus
Jermain Defoe hopes to follow Gareth Bale's example and use fatherhood as a footballing inspiration.
Defoe will tonight make his first Tottenham start for nearly five weeks, in the Europa League last-16 first leg against Internazionale. Since being out injured he has become a father for the first time.
After Bale's remarkable goal-scoring run since the birth of his first child, the England striker said yesterday that the loss of his father last year, and this new birth, will act as motivation on the pitch.
"I picked up an ankle injury and was a bit down, but I have been through a lot of stuff and so I know you have to bounce back, come back stronger and help the team kick on," he said. "It does make you think you want to do well for the people you have lost, and I have a little boy now, so I want to work hard to be a better person and keep on doing what I'm doing.
"I spend a lot of time with him. I see him every day, feeding him, putting him to sleep, changing nappies. I do everything. It's the first but it has been a great experience.
"It's amazing to be honest. Anyone with kids can understand what I'm saying. It changes your mentality, the way you think. I just feel blessed."
Defoe has already seen Bale score 18 goals in 24 games since he became a father in October.
"He has 'little AVB', little Alba," Defoe revealed. "He came in the next day with all the pictures and he has loved it, and you can tell by how he's playing. He's a happy person. He has his daughter and that stability is important as a professional. He's buzzing at the minute and I think it helps."
Defoe admitted to teasing Bale over his daughter's famous initials. "Her middle name is Violet. I give him stick. Gaz is the first one to be on someone, giving them banter, so if you have a chance to get it back you have to take it."
Defoe, like all Spurs players, is revelling in Bale's incredible run: "You talk about special players, with what Gaz has done, the goals he has scored and how he scored them out of nothing. Everyone was tired in that game [the 3-2 win at West Ham] and for him to get it out of his feet and smash it into the top corner is something special. It's great watching it.
"Gaz is always bantering everyone. He wants to finish top scorer all the time, and he's not even a forward, he's a winger and that's great."
While Spurs' push to qualify for the Champions League is the focus, they have a good chance of winning the Europa League too and Andre Villas-Boas has promised to play another strong team tomorrow night, as he has done throughout the competition so far.
Defoe would love the chance to win some silverware here. "When you look at the team we've got, you do think we should be winning trophies," he said. "So it would be great. Just keep winning matches and then you never know. People come up to you in the street, Spurs fans, and they say we've got to finish above Arsenal, because obviously, with what happened last year. As players, for people like me, Daws [Michael Dawson] and Aaron [Lennon], that have been here for years, it is something that you really really want to do, for the lads and for the manager."
Defoe added that the current Spurs squad is the best he has seen in his two spells at White Hart Lane, going back to 2004.
He said: "I think it probably is the best squad since I have been here. As a player I have always said when you are playing with good players it makes it easier. Especially as a forward, you know you are going to get chances in a game to score. There are players that could walk into other top teams in the Premier League, but it is great for everyone and keeps you on your toes because you know if you get an opportunity you have to take it."
Kick-off 8.05pm, White Hart Lane.
Referee A M Lahoz (Sp).
Belfast Telegraph Digital