Goodbye Jermain Defoe: Brilliant Bloke, Brilliant Goalscorer & Spurs Fans Will Miss Him
I was sitting in an office in Soho at the end of the working day on February 2nd 2004 when the news came through, just as the transfer window was closing - that Tottenham had signed Jermain Defoe from West Ham. I was so elated that I sprinted up to Soccer Scene on Carnaby Street and just managed to buy a Spurs shirt with his name on the back before the surly sods shut up for the night. Later that evening I peeled off my tracksuit top at my regular Monday night six-a-side to reveal it. Among the other players were my two West Ham supporting brothers who failed to see the funny side.
Come Saturday I was so excited about his debut against Portsmouth that I turned up without my season ticket and had to make a distress purchase from a tout. This turned out to be fortuitous because I ended up sitting in the lower east stand just yards away from him when he despatched an unerring angled drive of for a memorable debut goal.
Ten years later Defoe has taken his place among the great Tottenham strikers. Number five in the all time scorers list, he is number one for European goals.
On top of that, he has always struck me as a singularly good bloke. He publicly apologised to West Ham fans for his overly hasty transfer request following their 2003 relegation and more or less invented the idea of not celebrating goals against previous clubs.
In the 2007 documentary ‘The Million Pound Footballers’ Giveaway’ Dr Noreena Hertz went round Premier League clubs attempting to persuade players to donate a day’s wages to help struggling nurses. She got a mixed reception but, in the presence of his nervous looking agent Sky Andrew, Defoe immediately agreed to donate and was subsequently shown visiting hospitals with Hertz to learn more about the nurses’ plight.
I met him a couple of years ago when I was asked to film a couple of sketches with England players for the FA and found that he was every bit as courteous, focused and good-humoured as that documentary had suggested.
But it’s the goals that stick in the mind the most. The astonishing top corner bullet in the insane 4-5 defeat to the Goons in Martin Jol’s first game as boss; the trademark thunderbolt after he’d cut inside from the left wing against Manchester City at the Lane last season, coming off the bench to rescue a lost cause. And 140 others.
He goes to Toronto FC, a club brimming with ambition in a fantastic city, in search of regular starts having spent spent most of the season - without moaning about it - on the Tottenham bench. Spurs fans will wish him nothing but abundant success and happiness.
Follow Theo on Twitter, @TheoDelaney