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Defoe Returns! Is it time for one final, glorious chapter at Sunderland?

Be still my beating heart, the sweet prince has returned. It’s a different Jermain Defoe to a few years ago, so can Sunderland use him to maximum effect?

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

A signing to appease part of the fan base? Or to tangibly improve the team?

Thankfully the two options are not mutually exclusive.

A man who has been the shining light of Sunderland’s history in the last decade. Someone who conducted himself on the pitch immaculately.

The truth is though, off it he went above and beyond what any of us could have expected of one of our own. His relationship with Bradley Lowery, and the love and support he provided in such horrendous circumstances still brings a lump to the throat.

What he did transcended football.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Now I’m not party to the recruitment strategy at Sunderland AFC, but if I was, one of the basic questions I would ask is “what’s the downside?”

The concern would be, that for some unidentified reason, signing Defoe would affect the equilibrium of the squad. But Defoe is not a disruptive influence, far from it.

People might also have concerns that he will take a while to get fully up to speed - only time will tell on that one.

But time is not on his - or Sunderland’s - side.

Thirdly, has it distracted away from the bigger problems within the squad, i.e. the yawning gap in the middle of the park? Well, maybe Dreyfus, Madrox, Speakman and the rest of the board feel that this is a situation better remedied on a tactical and managerial basis. Therefore, they removed Johnson as manager.

With 17 games remaining, this is very much a short term solution and yet it has the ability to reap considerable dividends. Defoe is something different in terms of what is already at the club going forward; he should however be coming in on the proviso that minutes and starts are not guaranteed.

Why would they be when you have the league’s top scorer leading the line?

The nostalgic element of this is hard to ignore. The signing of Defoe is a reminder to us all of how things used to be - before the good ship Sunderland was swallowed whole and dragged into the deep, dark depths of the football league. It is yet, as we all know, to resurface.

Sunderland v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

There is of course a caveat to all this: fans should bear in mind Sunderland are not getting the same player who left almost 5 years ago. The ones who are best placed to comment are our friends north of the border at Ibrox. Has he, for example, adapted his game further to protect his ageing legs? Just how much pace does he have? Or should we insert inverted commas, and call it “pace”? Is he now just the master of positioning, someone to be in the right place at the right time?

What too, will League One defences make of him? The temptation is to think that he will take the proverbial, but it won’t be as straightforward as that. Again that is on the basis of what he was like.

Will he have the deftness of touch, the clever movement and goal scoring knack he has displayed for more than 20 years and will allow him to evade them?

How too, will he link up with players such as Pritchard, Roberts, Clarke and Dajaku? In many ways, this has the potential to be very sexy. Very sexy indeed.

What it does not do though is solve the issues around Sunderland’s away form, and inability to have anything other than a centre softer than a creme egg.

If Sunderland fans are expecting a magic bullet, they should perhaps be wise to take a minute, pause and think what realistically is the best we could all expect from Defoe. The answer probably lies somewhere between 8 - 12 appearances with some crucial goals contained within them.

Crystal Palace v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Arguably his biggest asset that he will remain a threat to the end and, if Sunderland are chasing one point or three going into the final 10 minutes, there is little doubt he will have a psychological effect on opposition defences. They will naturally follow him, be pulled out of position - and for that reason, we could see an unattended Ross Stewart pop up with some crucial goals of his own.

I didn’t ever expect Defoe back, and the truth is I’d have been happy to watch his strikes against Chelsea and Newcastle on YouTube for the rest of eternity. Not to mention that ice cool penalty at Stoke in the 95th minute.

If anyone is still undecided as to whether this is a good thing or not, then ask yourself who else in the last 10 years brings an automatic smile to your face when you think about the goals he has scored in red and white?

The man owes us nothing, but there’s a sneaking suspicion he might just add a final, glorious chapter to his Sunderland career over the coming months.

When I see that Chelsea goal I still punch the air repeatedly.

Good luck Jermain - it’s over to you.


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