Jermain Defoe has put his remarkable consistency at the age of 34 down to his healthy vegan lifestyle.
Defoe returned to the England team and scored against Lithuania, after a long international absence which saw him excluded from Roy Hodgson’s squads for the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016. Defoe is in the form of his life, even for a struggling Sunderland side, and looks set to beat his Premier League goals tally from last season.
Some thought that Defoe’s career was winding down when he left Tottenham for Toronto FC in 2014 but he is in fact as sharp as ever. Speaking after Sunday’s Wembley win, which he said was especially special because Bradley Lowery was there with him, Defoe put his form down to healthy habits.
“The demands on the players are so high with the intensity of the games these days,” Defoe said.
“But with the sports science, if you do things right and look after yourself [you can keep playing]. The key things for me is recovery, and how you look after yourself after the games to give yourself the best opportunity to perform in the next game. I seem to have got that to a tee. There are a lot of things I do away from training and playing that help me to perform on match day.”
Defoe has always abstained from drinking to keep himself in peak shape but he has now given up on meat and dairy as well to keep himself in perfect footballing shape.
“I have a better understanding of my body now, I know when I need to have a rest day,” he said.
“I do a lot of cryotherapy. It’s not enjoyable, but I try and do it like you’re loving it. Everyone wants to play and there’s no better feeling than to feel fresh. So just make sure I’m doing the cryotherapy, massage, eating the right things.”
“I’m trying to turn vegan, which is a funny one because when I go to my mum’s she’s got every meat you can imagine out on the table. I eat a lot of fish, but I’m trying.
"My girlfriend said I have to do it. She puts on these documentaries. It’s always helpful when you have someone around you help you and drive you on. It’s not easy but I feel good so I’ll continue to do it. I am just trying to tick every box so I can continue playing.”
Defoe finds it easier to make sacrifices because of how much he enjoys still being good at his job. “I don’t find anything hard because I know the feeling I get scoring goals,” he said.
“It’s like when I get in that ice bath. I don’t want to do it but I know surely at the weekend I’m going to get rewarded. It’s hard but on the other side it’s easy.”
It was not easy for Defoe being left out of the last two tournaments for England and he said it was heart-breaking to be left out of the squad for Euro 2016 by Hodgson, even after a good season for Sunderland, especially as he found out that he was not chosen on television.
“It was heart breaking, because in my heart I felt I’d done enough to be involved,” Defoe said. “I’m not talking about going to the Euros and starting. Just to be with this bunch of players and have the opportunity to play with those kind of quality.
"Even if it’s just a five-minute phone call. Gareth phoned me and said ‘even if you’re not in the squad I will still phone you’. As players you appreciate that. You have a conversation with the manager and you understand. Maybe if I do this I can get in the next squad. When he called me we had a nice conversation.”
All this hard work meant that Defoe knew he was always going to score on Sunday.
“I worked hard all week in training, did a lot of finishing and prepared myself like I normally do,” Defoe said.
“When I’m at the club and go through the week, I always try to do everything right. I always go into the game confident and it was no different today. Especially playing with these sort of players, I always knew I’d get a chance.”