Defoe's all fired up for 'huge Spurs and England' season

JERMAIN Defoe is fighting a sense of deja vu, four years after his inability to hold down a place at Spurs crushingly cost him a place in England s World Cup squad. The Tottenham hitman scored both England s goals in the midweek friendly against Holland

JERMAIN Defoe is fighting a sense of deja vu, four years after his inability to hold down a place at Spurs crushingly cost him a place in England's World Cup squad.

The Tottenham hitman scored both England's goals in the midweek friendly against Holland to continue his electric pre-season form which had also seen him netting a fine goal against Olympiakos in Spurs' final pre-season game on Sunday.

And, having been omitted from the England set-up which contested the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Spurs striker is all too aware of the need to deliver this season.

"Is it the most important year of my career? I think so," Defoe told Ham&High Sport. "It's a massive year for me, the club and every English player.

"I'm 26 now and I feel strong and really sharp. I know it's a huge year for me with the World Cup at the end of it, and especially because of what happened last time when I didn't go - it was a massive blow.

"I want to make sure I'm on the plane this time, that inspires me even more. I've got fire in my stomach and I want to really push on now and have a great season."

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During the last World Cup, Defoe was the forgotten man of the Theo Walcott saga, as it was the Tottenham forward who was overlooked in favour of the 16-year-old Gunner, who was yet to make a Premier League appearance.

To make matters worse, Defoe then spent three weeks on stand-by with the Three Lions, but was then omitted from Sven Goran Eriksson's final 23-man squad after Wayne Rooney made a timely recovery from injury.

Defoe's failure to land a spot ahead of Walcott was largely due to his inability to hold down a place at Spurs, when Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane were preferred by Martin Jol.

This season Harry Redknapp has assembled a star-studded striking quartet but, although his team-mates could derail his World Cup ambitions again, Defoe is confident that Harry Redknapp's form-based approach to team selection will ensure that history doesn't repeat itself.

"I think that was different," said Defoe. "I've said it so many times about what happened at the World Cup. I was disappointed and I didn't play that much [at Tottenham].

"Getting into the England squad is based on merit - you've got to play, and I understand that. But that year there were times when I should have played, or that's what I thought.

"I was scoring goals and still not playing, but I think it's totally different now. With the manager that we've got, if you're scoring goals and performing he'll keep you in the team, and I think that's only right.

"If I'm not playing and Pav [Roman Pavlyuchenko] and Robbie are playing and they're scoring goals then I would never knock on the manager's door. It wouldn't be fair because what can I say?"

Defoe's return to Tottenham in January was quickly ruined by a broken foot and a 10-week layoff with injury, but the striker reveals he has come back in better shape than ever, and he feels Tottenham's absence from the Europa League will also be a positive factor this season.

"I've worked really hard in pre-season and I've done a lot of power work," he said. "When I was injured my rehab was really hard, and I put a lot of work in. And when I did come back I felt a lot stronger than I had done before I got injured.

"Not being in Europe [with Spurs] will help as well, maybe the extra rest would be a good thing. I've played in Europe before, the travelling makes you tired and it's hard.

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