Eddie Howe has warned Bournemouth to “nullify” Jermain Defoe if they are to pull off victory at Sunderland – and admits he ‘never came close’ to making the striker a Cherries player.
Howe hailed his one-time Cherries team-mate as “still one of the best players I’ve played with”, ahead of Saturday’s Stadium of Light trip.
Bournemouth failed to tempt former England star Defoe into a Dean Court return in the summer, and now Howe has highlighted the 33-year-old as the Black Cats’ danger man.
“He has the ability to score key goals in tight games, so we certainly know about his strengths,” said Howe of Defoe, who has hit nine Premier League goals this term.
“Our key aim is to nullify him, keep him quiet.
“Of course there are very good players around him, but certainly his form has been very good of late.
“He’s still one of the best players I’ve played with.”
Defoe bagged 18 goals in 29 Division Two appearances on loan at Bournemouth in the 2000/2001 season before making his big breakthrough at Tottenham.
The 55-cap striker’s goals have sustained Sunderland’s relegation battle so far, but now Howe wants Bournemouth to claim victory in the north east to edge themselves further away from the drop zone.
“I didn’t realise it was 15 years ago that Jermain was here, that makes me feel old,” said Howe.
“I’m not surprised he’s still playing.
“When we got him he was a young lad, making his way in the game and trying to build his career and he did that in style here.
“He transformed our season from being relegation candidates to promotion candidates, and that was really down to him.
“He’s a great lad, he lives for scoring goals, that’s what he wants to do and he’s still managing to do it at the very highest level.”
Admitting Bournemouth were unable to lure Defoe to the south coast this summer, Howe hailed big-money January recruits Benik Afobe and Lewis Grabban as ready to fire the goals to keep the Cherries in the top flight.
“No, it was never close unfortunately,” said Howe, of the summer’s attempts to recruit Defoe.
“He’s a player I admire greatly as you can tell.
“But Sunderland are in a similar position to ourselves so there’s no way they would want to lose him.
“It would be very difficult for any of our players to sit down and analyse Jermain Defoe, and neither should they really, because they want to be themselves.
“But there’s certainly elements of his game that any striker can benefit from having.
“His movement is very good, his finishing, that was the first thing that struck me when working with him, how good his finishing is from all angles.
“It’s quite unique how he finishes, he takes the ball very early, so I think it’s very difficult to copy that.
“But certainly if you’re a striker you can admire it.
“If you look at our strikers, how Benik (Afobe) finished his goal last week was hugely impressive for me, not just the finish in itself but the movement to get there.
“We believe in the players we have here that they have enough to score goals at this level.”