Gareth Southgate insists Jermain Defoe has a chance of making England's 2018 World Cup squad
The 34-year-old scored England's opener in a comfortable win at Wembley, substitute Jamie Vardy grabbing the second on a day when Gareth Southgate's team strengthened their grip on qualifying group F, maintaining a four point lead over Slovenia with five games left.
Defoe made his 56th appearance for his country four years after his last showing. But Southgate pledged: "If Jermain scores like he is in the Premier League, there's no reason why he wouldn't be a realistic choice for next summer.
"The ideal world for all our players is they are playing regularly at a high level. We don't have a huge pool of players to pick from. Jermain's performances and his goalscoring form this season have counted for him.
Gareth Southgate shakes hands with Jermain Defoe as he comes off the pitch at Wembley
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Sun, March 26, 2017
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GK: Joe Hart – 7
"We've got to look every time as to who is in form. Players who are playing well deserve the opportunity. If we are going to be successful we have to have competition for places. It's important we can call upon the likes of Jermain and he can have the impact he did today."
Defoe's team Sunderland are bottom of the Premier League, and the striker, who will be 35 next summer, admitted during the week that he might have to move on if they are relegated.
Southgate added: "It was a great moment for Jermain. He was thrilled to be back involved. He's been a good senior professional to have around the team, in terms of the way he's trained, and his professionalism which has been great for the younger players to see. I would have put my house on him scoring at some stage. He's had a really positive impact on everybody."
Jermain Defoe came out with the England team with terminally ill mascot Bradley Lowrey
Defoe, allowed by skipper on the day Joe Hart to lead the team out at Wembley alongside five year old mascot Bradley Lowery, who is terminally ill with a rare form of neuroblastoma cancer, and who has formed a special bond with the Sunderland striker, capturing the hearts of the nation in the last few months.
The striker said: "It's hard to put into words how I felt. I had to keep my emotions in at the beginning, obviously little Brad was with me.
"I knew I would be leading the team out. It was special but just to be back and playing with the lads again was a great feeling.
"I want to stay in the squad now, but obviously I have got to go back to my club and make sure I finish the season strongly." ends