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Jermain Defoe & his Mam shared centre stage on award night - Here's their story

Picking up his Player of the Year award from the North East Football Writers Association, Jermain Defoe was centre stage alongside his mam. Sandra Defoe has been a constant feature in the striker's career - is she the matriarchal force behind his success?

Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

Jermain Defoe is fast becoming something of a legend at Sunderland. If this time around his goals aren't sufficient to make up for the deficiencies in the rest of the squad and the shadow of the dreaded drop finally overwhelms us, he will probably leave the club for free - such is the nature of his current deal. But, for now we should enjoy his goals and if he does depart at the end of the season, he will do so with our good wishes.

On Sunday night Defoe picked up his latest accolade - the North East Football Writers Association Player of the Year Award. Taking centre stage with him at the Ramside Hall hotel was his mam, Sandra.

Sandra Defoe is one lady who has been with her son every step of the way in his football career. Avoiding cliches about motherhood and the tales about the matriarch behind the Defoe dynasty is difficult in this case - the two have been a feature in football for two decades.

Before we complete their story, we just need to get one thing clear - despite Sunderland AFC's official stance [below] that 'mum' is the correct terminology for the Defoe matriarch - every mother up here - bar none - is a 'mam'. Thanks.

Sandra married Jermain's father in 1981 and a year later the couple celebrated the birth of their first and only child together. They split not long after his arrival, and Sandra would later remarry. The young mother and son share a striking resemblance, as this picture shared by the player himself a few years ago shows.

Jermain's dad, Jimmy Defoe, died four-and-a-half years ago aged just 47. The England striker was given leave of absence from Euro 2012 to attend his funeral.

Father and son led starkly contrasting lives. Jimmy was an occasional painter and decorator who presumably made ends meet however he could, and according to various reports which surfaced in 2004, he appeared not to receive any financial support from his superstar son. At the time, Jimmy spoke of his immense pride in watching his footballing offspring perform on a global stage.

As for mother and son, Jermain has spoken at length of the hugely supportive and disciplined upbringing he experienced which is still reflected in the application the striker appears to bring to every aspect of his life - a tee-total, healthy-living, green-tea -quaffing life Defoe certainly leads, though he has a history of maintaining a keen interest in the opposite sex.

There are a couple of episodes which neatly illustrate the influence that Sandra Defoe has exerted over her son's career choices.

The first dates to 2004 when Defoe controversially left West Ham, handing in a transfer request the day after the Hammers were relegated to the old Division One. Trevor Brooking would later claim Sandra had played a significant part in Jermain's decision-making at that point in his career.

Charlton v West Ham X

At just 20-years-old, Defoe would categorically state the reason for his desire to abandon Upton Park was purely a career-based one, though many had suspected he was looking for a way out whether West Ham were relegated or not. Brooking would later remark on BBC Radio Five:

I was at the club when Jermain first left. I was caretaker manager at the time.

Everyone said he got a lot of stick from the fans, but to be fair his mum has always been a big influence and he put in the transfer request really under a lot of pressure from her.

I never really blamed Jermain - he was a young lad and that was the situation at the time.

The decision would later prove to be sound as West Ham took two seasons to engineer promotion back to the Premier League. Defoe would then spend four successful years at Tottenham Hotspur.

Tottenham Hotspur v Portsmouth
Defoe scoring for Spurs against Portsmouth in 2004
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

The second example comes from just before his Sunderland spell, during his ill-fated stint at MLS side Toronto. Some elements of the media in Canada had taken exception to the influence of Mother Defoe during the striker's spell across the Atlantic.

Toronto FC Introduce Jermain Defoe
Defoe at the press conference at which he was unveiled by Toronto in 2014
Photo by Jag Gundu/Getty Images

The Toronto Sun in particular ran an odd story - for a newspaper - on the influence of Sandra over all elements of Jermain's time at the MLS outfit. The paper quoted 'several high-placed sources' who insisted on anonymity - oblivious to the fact a club like Toronto likely only has but a handful of 'high-placed' sources per se who could probably be identified at will because of their sparsity in number.

These sources whispered of Sandra's all-pervading influence over Jermain and interference in team matters and top brass at Toronto with plotting supposedly underway to engineer a return back to England for mother and son.

Whatever the truth of it, Defoe was certainly keen to head back to the Premier League and Sunderland possessed an ideal save-face for the Toronto club to be persuaded to allow their big-name striker an escape route.

Toronto FC Introduce Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe was unveiled as 'a bloody big deal' upon his arrival at Toronto FC
Photo by Jag Gundu/Getty Images

Toronto had marketed the signing of Defoe two years prior with the marketing slogan 'it's a bloody big deal', but they needed a way to spare a few blushes with an equally impressive arrival to banish the memory of the ill-fated Defoe-project.

Jozy Altidore was still a big deal in North America despite his comedic performances in England, and he proved to be the perfect swap for both parties. The USMNT striker would be a box office signing behind which to hide the return of Defoe. And it made sense for Sunderland too who needed a striker to replace one of the worst signings the club had ever made. The rest of the Defoe story - as they say - is continually emerging history on Wearside.

Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Parents in football are hardly unusual. Neymar's father caused controversy in 2014 for making millions out of his son's transfer to Barcelona and Arjen Robben is another high profile star who has made headlines due to his father's influence as agent. Zaza's dad handled his loan move to West Ham last summer and Michael Owen was famously represented by Terry, his dad, for a good few years when he was at his peak.

But, mothers are perhaps a little more unusual. Are we pre-conditioned to view a footballer with a 'pushy mam' differently to how we would view a father acting as their agent? Quite possibly. But, in Jermain Defoe's case, having his mam heavily involved in his life and career has worked out a true treat.