Defoe: Football gives me peace

Defoe endured a difficult summer personally. Photo: PA

Jermain Defoe has revealed how the distraction provided by football is helping him come to terms with the turmoil of a tragic summer.

In recent months the Tottenham striker has had to deal with the deaths of his father, from cancer, and his cousin Hannah, who was electrocuted in a swimming pool in a freak accident in St Lucia.

The 29-year-old says the experiences have given him a different perspective on life and football, and admits "the only time I am really at peace is when I am training and playing".

"It has been difficult for me and my family," Defoe said. "It has been hard, especially with my dad. From day one, when he was diagnosed, I was with him from the first meeting in the hospital.

"I am only 29 and to deal with that was quite difficult. I had to tell dad my 'it will be okay and be positive, keep praying and have faith'.

"I have always known about cancer but to be around someone who has cancer and to see what it does in such a short space of time was mad.

"It makes you think about your life. I have got a big family and we have always been close. It does make you think about life and what is important.

"If you have an argument with someone and you sulk, sometimes you don't want to speak to them. But it is important to keep your friends close to you and do the right things.

"To be honest, the only time I am really at peace is when I am training and playing.

"Obviously when you are on your own you start thinking stuff."

Such a difficult period should at least be brightened by the prospect of winning his 50th England cap in Moldova on Friday.

Defoe is vying with Danny Welbeck to start the World Cup qualifier after his stunning winner in last month's friendly against Italy in Berne.

Even though he won his first cap eight years ago against Sweden, Defoe is still battling to be a first-choice player for his country, with 32 of his 49 caps coming as a substitute.

He said: "It has been frustrating at times but what can I do? For a player it is important to stay focused and if you don't start games, being a forward, it is important to come on and try and make an impact.

"Especially at tournaments, it is about the squad and not just the team. Players can come on, make an impact and try and win the game. Against Italy I came on at half-time last month and got the winner.

"If I was one of those players that looked at the stats and started sulking, I would not have done what I have done.

"It is important to stay in the squad and when you get in the team, you have to try and stay there. I think to myself that if I come on, I might get a chance. I am confident I will take it."

Defoe has linked up with England on the back of signing a new contract at Tottenham and starting the first three Premier League games of the season.

He said: "Every day I would walk out of my house and fans would come up to me and ask whether I was staying.

"I would love to have turned round and say I was staying but I was not too sure. Obviously the chairman (Daniel Levy) made it clear that he wanted me to stay and the manager (Andre Villas-Boas) likes me.

"I had looked bright in pre-season and he wanted me to stay. I love the club. My family are in London and I love the boys at the club so I have signed a new contract and I am settled.

"It's also been good to start the three games in a row - something that never happened last season."

Watch Moldova v England (Friday 7th Sept.) and England v Ukraine (Tuesday 11th Sept.) live on ITV