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Editorial: Jermain Defoe will still come good!

Despite the start to his Sunderland second-coming going rather slowly, I still believe that Jermain Defoe can make an impact this season - and I can’t help but dream of him playing his part in a perfect Wembley winner.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The moment that I heard that there had been a hitch in the unveiling of the massive Jermain Defoe crowd surfer which had been planned for display before the Doncaster game last month, I just knew deep down that the day wasn’t going to go exactly to plan.

And it didn’t - despite the massive crowd that had turned out to welcome Jermain back to the club, we were swatted aside by one of the league’s whipping boys on our own patch.

After a smokebomb was ignited by a supporter in the south stand concourse prior to kick-off, the club’s safety officer took the decision to knock the giant tribute to Sunderland’s returning hero on the head, much to the disappointment of all the volunteers involved, both in the roll-out and the fundraising effort behind creating the surfer at such short notice.

It wasn’t just the unveiling that didn’t go to plan, however, as the team on the pitch struggled to get going and managed to deliver one of the most disappointing home performances seen at the Stadium of Light since we plunged into the third tier.

Sunderland v Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jermain was rolled out in front of the fans in the 72nd minute to rapturous applause, but with the team already two-nil down it was highly unlikely that he was going to have much of an impact on the game, despite what we were all hoping might happen.

Since that day, it just hasn’t happened yet for the 39-year-old forward.

He’s started only two games and has played 232 minutes of football thus far, failing to hit the back of the net in any of the six games that he’s played a part in since arriving.

On Saturday he paired Ross Stewart up top from the off, but was given scraps to feed off as the rest of the team continually frustrated by allowing the defence to lump it forward too often, and with our wide players failing to create anything of note up until Defoe was taken off for Patrick Roberts.

If you’re going to play Defoe in the starting eleven, you have to create chances, and the service has to be consistent. You have to play through the middle of the park and keep the ball on the deck, and nobody will have been more frustrated than JD when he saw our style of play switch once he’d gone off to one he’d be more comfortable with.

To my mind, we simply haven’t set the team up in a way that suits him since he arrived, nor have we brought him on in games where he can really make a positive difference.

That’s probably a tad unfair, because he did have a decent impact on the Fleetwood match on Tuesday and played his part in two of the goals, but generally speaking, we’ve wasted him, in my view.

That said, this theme doesn’t need to continue.

It doesn’t have to be a frustrating ending to his Sunderland story.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Do I expect him to start many games? No, not really. When Nathan Broadhead is fit I think he’s a far better option in that position, but regardless, there are better ways to utilise him.

He’s capable of scoring goals at any level of the game if you simply create the chances. His movement and intelligence is still there, and he still gets into good positions.

Can you imagine being a League One defender, having had the arse run off you by Stewart and Broadhead, only to know you’re destined to face twenty minutes of torture trying to keep an eye on one of the finest goalscorers that this country has ever produced?

Jermain still has a crucial part to play in this season, I’m sure of it.

Some may say I’m a fantasist, but I can’t help dreaming about Sunderland clinching a place at Wembley following an arduous end to the season.

And with the game tied at 0-0 in injury time, Alex Neil brings on Defoe and with it comes a wall of deafening sound from the 40,000 mackems in attendance.

The ball drops in the box with minutes to spare, Defoe reacts quickly to spin and slot it home, celebrating in front of the Sunderland supporters as they go mental, clinching promotion with Defoe creating history in a red and white shirt once again.

It probably won’t happen, but just imagine it...

Can you think of a better way to end the season?

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Until that dream becomes impossible, I’ll still be praying that we get to see our team win on the big stage, with our big game player signing off on his unbelievable playing career in the best way imaginable.

We’ve got a long way to go, and as of right now there’s no certainty that we’ll even finish in the top six, but with eight games remaining I think that there are better ways to make use of some of the players at Alex Neil’s disposal.

I’m not just talking about the obvious stuff - like dropping Evans, reintroducing Neil and O’Nien to the fold properly, and wrapping Ross Stewart in bubblewrap - but the likes of Defoe and Aiden McGeady being used properly and being given the right moments in matches to have the maximum possible impact.

Even at 39 years of age, Jermain Defoe still has plenty left to prove, and plenty in the tank.

Nobody wants to see him go out on his terms, with an almighty bang, more than me.


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