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Editorial: Regardless of Defoe decision, Lee Johnson has earned our trust and our backing

But wouldn’t it be nice to see JD back at the Stadium of Light?

Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Let me get one thing clear first of all: I’d love us to re-sign Jermain Defoe.

Yes, there’s a romanticised element to that feeling; he was a class player for us and I’d like to see him finish his career by helping us back into the championship at least.

From a footballing perspective, I think he’d add enormously to what we have. We’re light up front, and bar Ross Stewart don’t have a genuine, regular goal threat. If Stewart is injured, who plays up front? We clearly need reinforcement.

If Defoe signs for us I reckon we go up, it’s done. Game, set and match.

After the game on Saturday, Lee Johnson made his position on Defoe clear – he’d like to sign him, and there are a few details to work out.

Late last week, for whatever reason, the Northern Echo’s football writer Scott Wilson published an inflammatory article about Johnson not wanting Defoe.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League - Stadium of Light
Could Defoe rewrite his final SoL chapter?
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

The timing of the article was curious – where did that prompt to write the piece come from? Someone on the inside wanting to put the pressure on Johnson to sign Defoe? Or was it simply from the writer himself wanting to stir the pot – after all, he’s proudly got a Newcastle picture header on his Twitter page – so who knows?

I found it even more curious that this article prompted some anti-Johnson sentiment on social media.


The mind genuinely boggles.

Kristjaan Speakman and Lee Johnson have done a cracking job this season, in my opinion. They’ve brought in players thoughtfully and deliberately. The signings so far this window – Trai Hume, Patrick Roberts and Danny Batth – all significantly strengthen the squad, as did the players brought in during the summer window. Only Alves has failed to make any impact.

This month, Hume and Roberts in particular offer some potential in terms of developing players and selling them for a greater fee further down the line, while Batth is an excellent addition and adds some defensive nous, some physicality and leadership qualities that we’ve been lacking so far this season – if Saturday’s evidence is anything to go on.

The blueprint in terms of signings has been clear from the outset – and I doubt a 39-year-old who’s played mere minutes of football this season fits into any ‘data set’ we have.

And that’s where data has to be blended with common sense – and the majority of us would much prefer Defoe comes back home to the SoL than Oxford, Charlton, Rotherham or Wigan.

Sunderland Unveil New Signing Patrick Roberts
Patrick Roberts is yet another exciting signing to join the lads under the new ownership and management team
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

However, if – and it’s a big IF judging by Johnson’s comments on Saturday – Johnson and Speakman decide Defoe’s not the right player for us at this moment in time, then that’s their decision, They have earned the right to make it, and I believe they’ve earned our trust on signings given the work they’ve done so far this season.

There are a million and one things go on behind the scenes at football clubs, and as fans we’re party to a very small percentage.

What if Defoe is demanding to start every game as a condition of his contract? What happens then? How does that impact the mood of the team? The respect they have for Johnson?

What if Defoe’s only concerned about himself, rather than being part of something bigger?

For the player himself, he’ll want to play as much as possible – but we don’t know what his level currently is after being sidelined all season. He’s certainly not going to be match fit, and the likes of Stewart, Pritchard, Embleton and Dajaku are all worthy starters at present. Who’s Defoe going to displace?

Johnson’s probably created his own problem here by acknowledging there are a few things that need to line up for it to be the right deal for us – it’d be easy to go all out saying ‘we want him’ and if Defoe decides against it it’s all on the player.

I do genuinely hope that, if Defoe wants to be part of something bigger, he does come back – I think it could be the perfect, fairytale ending to his career to score goals that help us get back up. It’s one of those stories that can seem pre-written in football.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Premier League
It’d be nice to see Defoe celebrating a few more goals in a Sunderland shirt
Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images

But if he doesn’t it’s not the end of the world.

It’s not the end of the season.

It’s certainly not the end of Lee Johnson.

Speaking personally, I’m very content with how we’re progressing this season – we’re building a team that will get better and better over the coming seasons, and will hopefully get promoted this season.

And that’s got to be the sole focus.

For this campaign. with another couple of additions this week before the window closes, we will be in excellent shape heading into the final months of the season, during which there are going to be some high-pressure games and situations where experience will be critically important.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if one of those additions was JD, who was prepared to be part of the squad and fight for his place, and he scored the goal that took us up?

However, going up is all that matters – and at the end of the season, as long as we do so, we won’t really care who played, and who scored, will we?


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