jermain defoe's press conference

03.02.2004

Jermain Defoe's transfer to Tottenham from West Ham United, completed just minutes before the transfer window closed, was a shock move and his welcome to the club was a warm one ... mainly thanks to a large interest from the Press at the conference held to introduce him as a Spurs player.

David Pleat and Defoe took the top table at Spurs Lodge and faced the Press.  Pleat started by comparing the England striker to former Spurs strikers Gary Lineker and Clive Allen and when asked why Tottenham had paid out for the young forward, the Director of Football said that there were many advantages to having a player like Defoe.  He brings things that complement the skills of the other forwards and they al have different strengths.  With Premier League games being so tight, Pleat said that one goal can make a difference and take a lot of heat off the other players in the side.  Jermain has scored 67 goals in just over 120 games, so has an astonishing strike rate and Pleat said that few players of his age can have done so much at such a high level, so Tottenham knew what they were getting when they moved for him.  Being a British player and a London boy, the move will be an easy one for him, as there will not be too much change for him to cope with.

With the signing of another young player, Pleat said that the club were "building an asset base" of quality players and with an eye to producing a young team for the future.  He said that the club were aiming to get back into Europe on a regular basis and that the team would be brighter and more youthful with the signings made of late, by which I suppose he means is since Hoddle has left.

The transfer request he made straight after West Ham had been relegated was brought up and he considered it a mistake and Defoe said he had apologised for it a few times since, but he is young and still learning from mistakes he has made.  He confirmed that the transfer request had never been withdrawn, but Pleat explained that while the public hear this term, they do not understand that the request never gets "withdrawn" but stays there, but is not acted on.

With Pleat mentioning the effervescent personality and how he is always the one who is keenest to train, Jermain said he was the same - always the first out and last one back from training.  He was keen to get playing with Fredi Kanoute again, after linking up at West Ham and the other players in the squad.  Jermain went on to add that he wants to improve his game and sees this as a step in that direction.  He was always watching his former team-mates Johnson, Lampard, Cole and Sinclair in the Premiership, but was not jealous of the other players leaving the club, while being left behind.  He said that every time he went out on the pitch for West Ham, he always did his best and thanked the Irons fans for their support during his time there.

Defoe was asked if he was frustrated in his time at West Ham this season as he had been subject to three sending offs so far.  He denied that and said that having scored 15 goals, he had shown that a commitment to the team.  However, he regards Tottenham as a massive club and that he was ambitious and wanted to win things, believing that he can do that at Tottenham.  Jermain added that he was learning as he went along his career and he would learn from the red cards he had received, because he does not want to miss any more games than he has to because he wants to play as much as possible.

Questioned about the fact that there is not a permanent manager in place at Spurs, Defoe said he did not see this as a problem, as he was happy to come and work with whoever was at the club now and looked forward to 

A place with England and going to Euro 2004 came up and Jermain thought that he was not disadvantaged by playing in the First Division, but that coming to Tottenham, he would be more in the public eye plying his trade in the Premier League, so in that respect he was keen to get break in the squad and hoped to impress Sven Goran Eriksson with his play.  

There was great interest about how the move came about and Jermain faced a lot of questions about when he hear about Tottenham's interest.   He said he was sitting at home on Sunday, not expecting anything to happen and was looking forward to playing against Bradford City on Saturday ("if selected") when he got the call.  The transfer was discussed with his family and agent and once he had made up his mind that was it.

Pleat was obviously happy to have captured his man as he was in good form, asking "What is this, a murder trial ?" when Jermain was asked where exactly he was when he found out of Tottenham's interest !!  When asked if he had consulted the new manager on the signing, he said he has consulted all of them and his wife too !!

All in all, the event was upbeat with Pleat singing the praises of his new signing and although he would not commit himself (or the new manager) to when or where Defoe might fit in up front, the general tone was that he would play the poacher's role.   He said the speed and stealth of Defoe plus the fact that he can strike without a discernible back-lift will aid the team in converting pressure into goals.

One last interesting thing that Pleat let slip was that the figure attributed to Defoe's transfer was not the one that had been quoted in the press today, with the fee being paid over a period of time and the total being a slightly less guaranteed amount than that bandied about. 

Defoe was quizzed about how he took the comments from the West Ham chairman that his head wasn't right to play for the club.  Pleat told the media that Terence Brown's comments were understandable as chairmen and managers are forced into saying things that the fans want to hear to justify their position and nobody likes losing a prize asset so has to defend their corner.  Jermain said he was upset by the remarks, but with his family and agent supporting him, he just got on with his game and played as well as he could, always giving 100% for the club.

Defoe said that new contracts had been mentioned but there had been no talks, as he was concentrating on playing football.

When asked about the possible transfer of Robbie Keane out of the club , Pleat denied that this was ever a possibility and that he had spoken to Keane about the situation at the club and he realised that he needed to "put down some roots" after a number of transfers in quite a short time.  His departure was never on the cards and there had been no interest expressed to Tottenham during the January transfer window.
In respect of Bobby Zamora, who moves to West Ham as part of the deal, Pleat said that Bobby is a great lad, who will do good things for his new club.  He said Zamora was always a willing worker and that he didn't get the opportunity to show exactly what he is capable of in the Premier League, but Pleat wished him well at his new club.  The caretaker manager did say that all the deals that Tottenham were discussing involved Zamora and all the clubs being dealt with were interested in taking him, but he had to use some "cloak and dagger" tactics, as he did not want the news that Alan Pardew at West Ham was keen on Zamora to jeopardise any other deals if the one for Defoe didn't come off.
Thanks to the Premier League, the deal for Leeds United goalkeeper Paul Robinson did not come about.  It wasn't the fact that the Yorkshire club had too many player son loan at one time, but that the League would not sanction the purchase of a player, who then stayed with his selling club.  Even though this is a common practice in Europe, the FA Premier League ruled out such a deal and with all other things agreed (medical, personal terms, transfer fee), David Pleat is confident that Tottenham are going to conclude the transfer in the summer.  One paper was hinting that the reason Robinson's move fell through was because of his wage demands, but this does not appear to be so, as the Director of Football indicated that everything else was in place for the move to go through at a later stage.

Pleat said that although Leeds were in a situation of their own making, other clubs were sympathetic to their plight and this deal was to help them out of their financial hole (which considering Leicester City got promoted from Division 1 last season because they chose to go into administration, which allowed them a financial advantage over other clubs who struggled on within their budgets to stay solvent). 

While happy with Kasey Keller's performances, Pleat said that he wanted Robinson to provide competition for places next season and that he had a very talented goalkeeper in Rob Burch, who he wanted to allow out on loan to get experience and Robinson's arrival would allow Tottenham to do this.

When asked about the situation involving Stephane Dalmat, Pleat said that he was on a proper loan deal from Inter Milan, which meant there was no immediate call back clause.  He said that Inter had just added some players to their squad and that there was talk a few weeks ago that Dalmat might be involved in the deal to take Adriano to Milan fro Parma, but that didn't happen and Spurs would have to keep their "eye on the ball" to see what happened with respect to his position at the Italian club.  However, at the moment, Pleat implied that Dalmat knew that he would be going back to Inter at the end of the season.  

Let's hope that the situation might change in our favour.

When asked about the freedom of contract of players nowadays, Pleat said that Tottenham had been big losers in that change in law, but had also benefited from signing Neil Sullivan for free in the same circumstances.  This lead to a query about Stephen Carr's contract position and Pleat said it wouldn't be a problem unless someone came in with a bid of 8 million for him now.  He seemed to be hinting that the time to address this would be in the summer when he only had a year to run, so a decision to sign a new contract or not would be broached then.

Barry Levington

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