Belfast Telegraph

Poyet issues challenge to Defoe

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet has challenged striker Jermain Defoe to fire his way back into the England squad after his return home as part of an almost "perfect deal".

The 32-year-old Toronto frontman completed his swap move with Jozy Altidore on Friday afternoon and goes straight into the Black Cats' squad for Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to former club Tottenham with Poyet insisting international football should still be in his sights.

He said: "I haven't talked to him about that, but that's a consequence. If he plays and he's fit and he scores goals, I'm sure that any manager of the national team is going to try to get him.

"First, he wants to get back into the Barclays Premier League, prove that he can keep scoring goals, help us and then it's up to Mr Roy Hodgson.

"But that's the second step. The first one is to get back into business."

Defoe headed back to England having served just 11 months of his four-year MLS contract with homesickness and injuries having played their part in his decision.

However, he managed 11 goals in 16 league appearances for Toronto, and while the Premier League may represent a sterner test of his enduring ability, he is delighted to be back.

Defoe said: "I am delighted to be here and I'm looking forward to the challenge. It is a great club and I've always enjoyed coming up here and playing against Sunderland because of the stadium and the supporters. It is a great place to play and I'm really looking forward to it."

His arrival could hardly be more timely for Poyet, who both played with and coached the striker during their time together at Spurs.

Sunderland have managed a paltry 18 goals in 21 league fixtures to date this season, a return which has left them flirting with yet another battle for top-flight survival.

But having seen at close hand exactly what Defoe can do, Poyet is convinced he has found the missing piece of the jigsaw.

He said: "I have got no doubt. I don't like excuses - I know every now and then, something comes out of me, because it's natural, because there are plenty of things, unfortunately, that happen in football and they can sound like excuses.

"Now I hope there are no more. That means that we have got as many players fit as possible, we can be organised but at the same time, we can score goals because we have got a proven goalscorer at the club, so there are no excuses.

"I played with him, so I was on the pitch with him and the training ground every day, and he's a player you want in your side because you know he is going to score goals and then if the rest of the team do their jobs, you have got a better chance of winning."

Defoe's arrival signalled the end of a frustrating time on Wearside for 25-year-old United States skipper Altidore, who managed just three goals in 18 months and only one in the league following his £6.5million switch from AZ Alkmaar.

The Black Cats, and in particular sporting director Lee Congerton, beat off stiff competition to land Defoe with a lucrative pay packet, and Poyet admitted it had worked out well for all involved.

He said: "It's nearly, with all respect to Jozy, the perfect deal. I'm a believer that those perfect deals don't happen quite often in football. They are practically impossible, so we are in a great position.

"Of course, the Jozy situation was simple: unfortunately, it didn't work out for him for whatever reason.

"He is going to go back home as a very, very important player and as the captain of the national team, and on the other hand, we are getting a proven Premier League goalscorer, so it was a good option for everybody."

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