Defoe Call-up Reaction
Jermain Defoe has been called up to the latest England squad which will face Germany away in a friendly before a World Cup qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley on the 26th of March.
The 34-year-old has 55 England caps and made his last international appearance in November 2013 in a friendly against Chile.
The Sunderland striker is understandably thrilled with his return to the England set-up,
Thanks to everyone for your messages! Playing for @England has been my dream since day one so to be back in the squad is so special for me.— Jermain Defoe (@IAmJermainDefoe) March 16, 2017
Meeting up with the squad and seeing all the boys. This time around it'll be strange being one of the older lads, but I can't wait! BUZZING!— Jermain Defoe (@IAmJermainDefoe) March 16, 2017
England manager Gareth Southgate explained that Defoe's inclusion is purely based on his ability to find the net and his record:
His goal scoring record speaks for itself, he’s a finisher, a player who has played at every age group for England, and is proud to play for England. You can have young players who are hungry and old players who are hungry.
I didn't want age to be a barrier, we’re looking to the future but at times an older player with experience and a goal scoring record like his in the camp is important. We can’t just look at young players all the time, we have to get results now while planning for the future.
Despite his fine form for Sunderland, Defoe has been continually overlooked by England - first by Roy Hodgson and then by Sam Allardyce during his one game in charge of the national team - so today's call-up has come as something of a surprise but reaction has certainly concluded it as well-deserved.
Jermain Defoe's #eng call-up reward for total dedication to his craft from extra shooting practice to consuming wild salmon & kale smoothies— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) March 16, 2017
14 - The only English player to score more Premier League goals than Jermain Defoe (14) this season is Harry Kane (19). Justification. pic.twitter.com/I7itVtIo10— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 16, 2017
Whilst Defoe's inclusion comes with risk from a Sunderland perspective - an injury to the striker would certainly hasten the looming threat of relegation - his call-up heralds a refreshing return to pragmatism from Gareth Southgate. Especially so for a club who have spent a decade in England's top flight with players continually overlooked by the national team regardless of their performances on the pitch - think Darren Bent.
Elsewhere, Jordan Pickford has been selected for the England Under-21 side which will face Germany and Denmark.
Djilobobdji international exile continues, but will he start on Saturday?
Sunderland defender Papy Djilobodji is again excluded from the latest Senegal squad which will play friendly matches against the Ivory Coast and Nigeria during the international break.
The 28-year-old has not been selected to play for his country for two years, ever since current national team manager Aliou Cissé was promoted from his position as Senegal's Under-23 head coach.
After his snub ahead of the African Cup of Nations, Djilobodji said,
I didn't want to go because I'm not friends with the coach.
I don't want to work with someone who doesn't like me. He doesn't like me and I don't like him. I like David Moyes and he likes me, I think.
Djilobodji has missed Sunderland's last five matches. He was suspended for four of them after being retrospectively found guilty of violent conduct when he appeared to hit out at West Brom's Darren Fletcher in January.
David Moyes selected John O'Shea and Lamine Kone as his central defensive pair last time out against Manchester City, despite Djilobodji's availability. But the Sunderland boss may be tempted to freshen up that pairing for the visit of Burnley on Saturday.
Praise for Ledger
Michael Ledger is continuing his preparations for the Norwegian football season which starts in April. The young Sunderland defender, on loan at Viking Stavanger, will be in action again on Saturday in the latest in a series of friendlies.
Ledger has impressed Stavanger manager Ian Burchnell so far with the Brit coach full of praise for the 19-year-old. And the Norwegian press have been likewise satisfied with his assured performances at the back,
Michael Ledger has proven itself as a very good alternative to injured Rasmus Martinsen. He makes few mistakes and has a good foot.
He's even had his mug shot taken now for use in Eliteserien promotional material.
Didier Ndong - he likes being forward.
Record signing Didier Ndong has been telling the club's official website that he likes playing in the more advanced position he has been utilised in during recent games:
It’s a position I’ve always played in and it’s a position I like, which is why the manager has selected me there.
Ndong's athleticism enabled David Moyes to utilise a higher press than normal against Manchester City last time out, and although Sunderland were unable to maintain that level for long against the hottest team in the league right now, the signs were encouraging.
The 22-year-old Gabonese international has previously spoken of his frustration at being used in an attacking midfield role for his country but Ndong represents a potential outlet for Sunderland in speeding up the rate of progress up the pitch and taking the pressure off what has been a battered rear-guard this season.
With Burnley the visitors on Saturday in a must-win fixture for Sunderland, David Moyes simply must find a way to keep his side on the front foot and at full-throttle for 90 minutes.
A familiar face in the opposition dug-out for the derby
The date for the rearranged Tees-Wear derby might be announced tomorrow - if Premier League chiefs can untangle the plethora of fixtures which now need rearranging due to FA Cup and European action.
As if the game wasn't going to be big enough already, today's news that Aitor Karanka has been sacked - to be replaced on a caretaker basis by former Sunderland defender Steve Agnew - might just another layer of intrigue to the relegation clash.
The 51-year-old has been involved with Middlesbrough - on and off - for over a decade. He was briefly caretaker when the Teesside club sacked Gordon Strachan in 2010 and had been assistant to Karanka for a couple of years.
Steve Gibson may yet appoint a new boss before the derby, but Agnew might have as good a chance as anyone else of taking charge of 'Boro until the end of the season.
Agnew is warmly remembered on Wearside for his part in the promotion side of 1996 - the year Peter Reid took Sunderland in the Premier League for the first time. Originally signed by Mick Buxton a year earlier, the midfielder made over 60 appearances during his spell here.
The last thing we need right now is a new manager bounce down in Teesside. But does today's news not increase the pressure on David Moyes? The Sunderland manager is now the only boss to have started the season and not been sacked amongst the bottom six sides in the Premier League.