Brave Bradley inspires former Pompey star Jermain Defoe’s triumphant England return

Bradley hugs Jermain Defoe before the match
Bradley hugs Jermain Defoe before the match
HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for the last time
Picture: Shaun Roster

RETRO: Watch the last voyage of HMS Illustrious from Portsmouth

2
Have your say

Former Pompey favourite Jermain Defoe struggled to keep his emotions in check after hitting the target on his first England appearance in three and a half years.

The Sunderland striker has not worn the Three Lions since November 2013 but showed he has lost none of his poacher’s pedigree when his first-time finish teed England up for a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

It was the 34-year-old’s 20th goal at international level, coming four years and four days since his 19th, but there was another reason the moment felt special.

Defoe, who scored 15 goals in 31 appearances for Pompey from 2008–2009, was accompanied on to the pitch by terminally-ill five-year-old Bradley Lowery, the Sunderland fan with whom he has formed a ‘best mates’ bond in recent months.

Joe Hart was named England captain for the evening but insisted Defoe and Lowery lead the team out.

‘It’s hard to put into words really,’ Defoe told ITV when asked about the experience.

‘I had to keep my emotions (under control), obviously little Brad was with me. You can imagine how I felt doing that, having done it with my club as well, it was special.

‘’Just to be back playing with the lads was a great feeling. I enjoyed it, it’s been a good week.

‘Just to win the game was important and we did that. It’s hard to put in words really to be back.’

Defoe made a point of never retiring from international football, even when a move to Major League Soccer appeared to spell the end of such ambitions, and has successfully put himself in World Cup contention next summer.