Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Forget Me,sven; Defoe's Message to England Coach

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Don't Forget Me,sven; Defoe's Message to England Coach

Article excerpt

Byline: LEO SPALL

JERMAIN DEFOE knows the impact Michael Owen had in France '98.

The Liverpool striker emerged from the bench as Glenn Hoddle's secret weapon at the World Cup to make his name.

Now the West Ham striker has one last chance in tonight's Under-21 friendly against Portugal to win a surprise place in Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad for this summer's tournament in Japan and Korea.

His chances look slim but he has taken heart from the emergence of Aston Villa striker Darius Vassell, whose goal against Holland has propelled him into the England coach's thinking.

Defoe is expected to start tonight's game at Stoke's Britannia Stadium, but despite spending most of the season on the substitutes' bench, he has still managed a dozen goals and his end-of-season breakthrough will mean he is in prime form for next month's European Under-21 Championships in Switzerland.

Defoe said: "The European Championships will be a big test for us, but I think we have a good chance in it.

The squad we have got is very strong.

"I have played in Under-15 and Under-16 tournaments for England but this is a big step up. It is also a springboard for getting into the senior squad.

It is only one step away and if you play well for them I am sure Eriksson will be watching.

"It is everyone's dream to play for their country at senior level. I will just keep working hard because you never know what can happen."

With striker Paolo Di Canio out

injured, Defoe is hoping a good run in the West Ham side will be enough to impress Eriksson.

He has always seen the Italian as a mentor but has been itching for their relationship to change.

Defoe is grateful for his skipper's help and advice, but feels more of a rival than a pupil these days.

He said: "I am definitely competing for a place with him and that is what it is all about: working hard and trying to get in there.

"Off the pitch we speak to each other a lot but everybody wants to play and nobody likes to be on the bench. …

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