Lallana: England can’t win anything with just kids

Date published: Monday 27th March 2017 1:00

Adam Lallana believes England have a better chance of winning trophies if the likes of Jermain Defoe are in the squad.

The 34-year-old made a goalscoring return for the Three Lions in Sunday’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Lithuania.

It was the Sunderland striker’s first cap since November 2013 but he showed he still has a predatory instinct at international level – opening the scoring before substitute Jamie Vardy wrapped up a solid, if unspectacular, win for Gareth Southgate’s side.

With the three points moving England closer to qualification, Southgate has left the door open for Defoe to make his squad for the World Cup next summer.

And Lallana did not downplay the influence the former West Ham, Tottenham and Portsmouth forward could have in Russia.

“Of course you can’t win things with just kids and inexperience and it is great to have someone like that around the camp,” Lallana told Press Association Sport.

“It is refreshing to see the hunger he still has, at times you think he is 23, 24 because he is that hungry and that driven to still improve.

“His enthusiasm for the game is really refreshing and it is great for people in our squad to see.

“We have got a lot of young players so it is great to see the hunger he has still got.

“He is determined to not just be here for this squad, keep being picked and be in the squad for Russia at the World Cup – and why not when he comes and contributes like he did (against Lithuania)?”

England have managed just seven goals in their last nine games in major tournament finals, and Liverpool midfielder Lallana reckons Defoe could help to improve that tally.

“It can be massive,” he said when asked how beneficial it could be to have a natural goalscorer in a potential World Cup squad.

“He is all about goals but I think his link-up play at times was superb. He wants to be in the six-yard box and feed off scraps at times and you need these type of players so I was delighted for him to get his goal and get us on the way for three points.

“He is a great role model for everyone in the squad. He has been absolutely brilliant this week, he sets a great example for a lot of us players.”

Defoe was part of the England squad which underperformed at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, although he did hit the winner in the game against Slovenia.

At that time Lallana was preparing for a League One promotion push with Southampton but his memories of Defoe stretch back even further than that.

“When you look at it like that it is crazy but it is nice,” he said.

“He thoroughly deserves to be playing on an international stage and at this level and he proved today what he is about.

“It still feels like you are playing with a 25-year-old Jermain Defoe. My dad used to take me to watch Bournemouth play when he famously scored in 10 games in a row.

“To be playing with him for England is quite surreal. It is the Jermain Defoe of old. You bet your bottom dollar he is going to score a goal and he did.”

Defoe was given the honour of leading out the Three Lions at Wembley with Bradley Lowery – the terminally ill five-year-old Sunderland fan whom the striker has spent time with in hospital.

But it was also the players on the pitch who drew inspiration from Defoe’s return, with Tottenham’s Dele Alli also full of praise for the forward.

“He is a fantastic player, he is a legend in my eyes,” said Alli.

“For him to come out and get a goal is big for him and big for the team as well. He is still fighting for a place in the England squad.

“He was one of those players who you hear a lot about, you watch him and he scores a lot of goals. I think some people forget how many goals he has scored and what a legend he is.

“For us younger players to see a player come back into the team, stepping up and getting a goal, it is a massive thing for us.”

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