Dyche hoping to shut out 'top-class' Defoe

Jermain Defoe

Jermain Defoe

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Clarets boss Sean Dyche knows from personal experience just how difficult it is to keep Jermain Defoe quiet.

The Sunderland striker, currently being eyed by former club West Ham, netted 20 goals in 2016, including the Black Cats' consolation in their 4-1 defeat at Turf Moor on New Year's Eve.

That made the 34-year-old the fourth most prolific Premier League frontman, and while his England career seems to have come to a halt, the former Spurs man remains critical to Sunderland's hopes of staving off the drop.

Back in 2000/01, on a record 10-game scoring run on loan with Bournemouth in the old Second Division, Defoe - playing alongside Wade Elliott and Eddie Howe - netted against then-Millwall centre back Dyche in a 2-1 defeat for the Cherries.

And Dyche smiled: "Believe it or not, it's one of my tales of woe, although it was a happy story, I played against him at the end of a period of scoring in a record number of games at Bournemouth, and me and Stuart Nethercott were spewing because we beat them 2-1, on our way to getting promoted, and he scored, and didn't have a kick other than that.

"We were raging!

"We couldn't believe it, we won, but he scored with his only kick."

Dyche knew the then-18-year-old was destined for the top: "You could tell with him, his movement was very good - we had a really strong side, so we won outright, but his movement was sharp. The killer quickness is over five to 10 yards, and he had that.

"Over a longer period he as quick as well, but that mental and physical sharpness, over that first few yards is vital for a striker, and he certainly had that. A top class player."

He did similar on New Year's Eve, scoring having had a quiet game, but Dyche admitted: "It's not always about what you do with the ball, as a manager and coach you look at what they do without it, his runs are still good, his cleverness, how he affects other people with his movement, to drag defenders out of the way to allow others to work...

"We don't just judge on their goals, and he's a top class player."

Many pundits presumed Defoe's top-flight career was over when he left Spurs for MLS side Toronto in 2014, before returning to England with Sunderland, where his first goal back in the country was against - Burnley!

Dyche never doubted his ability: "I don't think anyone in football thought he was coming to the end of his career (when he went to the MLS), if you look at what Sunderland allegedly spent to get him back, I don't think they were thinking that either.

"When he arrived back, a lot of managers thought that was a good signing.

"Fantastic professional, I don't know him, but from what I'm told, excellent, how he goes about it, how he looks after himself, and he's being paid back for his professionalism just as an individual with how he performs and his goals."

West Ham have reportedly had a £6m offer turned down, for a player who is priceless to Sunderland, and Dyche understands why clubs would want him: "Strikers are hard to come by, they're usually coveted, expensive, so it doesn't surprise me.

"The days of players reaching a certain age and people thinking that was them, they've changed, massively, dietary and training support, management support, that's all changed.

"If you look at some of the players signed in the Championship, let alone the Premier League, the fees paid for older players and wages paid are massive.

"You want people who can do the job, and he's shown he can, so it's no surprise people looking at him."