The Glasgow Rangers ace cites an early hero and picks his best moments for England

Glasgow Rangers striker Jermain Defoe lived the dream of pulling on an England shirt on 57 occasions and in the latest of our series presented by Bud Light, he told us how he was inspired by Paul Gascoigne and the Three Lions squad that went so close to World Cup glory 30 years ago before reflecting on his own highlights

Thursday 07 May 2020
Jermain Defoe made his England senior debut against Sweden in 2004

I was born in 1982, so my first memory of England would be the 1990 World Cup and a summer when the whole country came to a standstill to watch every game in that competition.

Paul Gascoigne was just amazing at that tournament and the impact he made was an inspiration to a young kid like me, who watched every game on TV with the thought that I could be doing that one day.

I remember the group stage game against Holland. It finished 0-0, but Gazza was doing some amazing things and confirming he was a world class player and it was great to see a guy who we all wanted to do well proving he was good enough to perform on a World Cup stage.

Paul Gascoigne was an early hero for Jermain Defoe

He had the confidence and ability to take on some big-name players in the Holland side and was an example to everyone hoping to be a footballer. To go from being this kid who burst through the ranks at his local club Newcastle to being recognsied as one of the best players in the world after Italia ’90 gave us all hope that we could realise our dreams and thankfully, I have managed to follow in his footsteps by also playing for England.

Even when I was 14 and I was going to the Lilleshall centre of excellence with the best young England players in my age category, the idea that I was part of a select group of players who had been picked out of everyone else in the country was amazing for me. I realised then, right at the start of my career, that playing for England meant more than anything else and that feeling has never left me all these years later.

There have been some special moments in my own international career, with my debut against Sweden a proud moment and then I scored my first goal against Poland and it was great to get back into the squad when Gareth Southgate first took over as manager.

Defoe with Bradley Lowery ahead of the game with Lithuania at Wembley

Walking out with my friend Bradley Lowery as the mascot for the Lithuania game was a fantastic moment and I'd never given up on my dream of playing for my country, which will always be the pinnacle for any English player.

Some people say international football is not as important as it used to be, but I disagree with that and you look at the massive crowds we get for internationals at Wembley and it shows that the fans are still right behind the team.

The manager has been part of England squads in recent years and a lot of the managers we have had recently haven’t done that. He knows what it feels like to play in tournaments for England and the way he has approached the job has impressed all the players.

He gives respect to the players and you can see that the respect goes back to him in return. Gareth takes a lot from the players in terms of taking ideas on board, but he is the boss when he needs to be and players appreciate that. 

Presented by Bud Light

By Jermain Defoe