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Jermain Defoe on the art of striking

How important is interplay to a striker’s game?
Obviously strikers get their goals in the box, but if you can’t play outside and link-up the play as well you become very predictable. It makes it harder for defenders to work you out if you can link play. Young players should learn that. It’s better than just thinking, ‘I’m a striker, so I just score goals’. Maybe I’ll make a good deep midfielder when I’m 40 and my legs have gone!

You’ve been holding the ball up well. How have you developed this side of your game?
It’s all the bench-pressing! But yeah, I’ve worked on it for a while, and I’ve been improving a lot. At the end of 2006, Martin Jol came up to me and told me that I had the best ratio of any striker in the league for keeping possession of the ball when it was passed to me. It was about 70 per cent or so, I think. I didn’t know that myself, but it’s definitely something I’d worked on, and I think it’s gone well again this season.

How has bulking up in the gym helped you?
When I did my metatarsal after signing back to Spurs from Portsmouth  I was in the gym for 10 weeks bulking up. I wanted to come back stronger than ever before. I worked on my upper body with the heavier free weights. I was doing explosive lifts – four sets or so each time. For my legs I did a lot of resistance training with a bungee. I was fit again just as last season ended, and then I had a pre-season back in the gym again. It was a double whammy of strength!

How has this helped your game?
It makes me feel so strong and powerful, and that can’t help but make your game better. It gives you confidence. There’s nothing worse than not feeling fit or strong enough on the pitch, because everyone else will be in great condition. If you haven’t got the power, you aren’t going to be able to compete.

Pace is a key part of your game. How do your boots help with that?
Football equipment is mad these days – boots are just so light. They can’t help but make you faster. When I put on a new pair of boots I always feel like a new player. You feel lighter on your feet. I’ve always liked adidas boots, and their new designs just get better and better.

Do you have a pre-match routine?
I always eat a carbs-heavy meal the night before a game. I go to bed early, get a good sleep and I like to get up fairly early. On the day of the game I eat some porridge at about 9am, have a little walk about, have a shower and then set off to the stadium for about 11am. We all eat lunch together at White Hart Lane. I like to eat chicken, baked beans, and a little bit of rice – lots of protein mainly. The team is picked, then I have a stretch and a massage. Before the game I like to get into the shower rooms and belt the ball as hard as possible at the wall. It annoys everybody else because it’s so noisy!

You’ve played with lots of different types of strikers. How do you adjust your game to play off, say, Peter Crouch as opposed to Wayne Rooney?
Obviously with Peter we can be a bit more direct, so that might affect the way I make runs. We play together at Spurs and have a good understanding. I quite often run on to his flick-ons. With Wayne we can’t be quite as direct. But we’re talking about top class players here, so it’s not difficult to play alongside any of them.

Also see:
Being the perfect partner
Jermain Defoe's six-step guide to striking