Jermain Defoe aiming to turn vegan to keep 2018 World Cup hopes with England alive
The Sunderland striker has been promised by England coach Gareth Southgate that he will have every chance of making the plane to the World Cup in Russia next summer, as long as he keeps scoring at the rate he has in the Premier League – even though he will be 35 years old when those finals come round.
Defoe, a surprise call-up by Southgate last week, showed just how potent a goalscorer he remains as he grabbed England's first goal in the comfortable 2-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday that maintained their firm grip on Group F, and their steady progress towards Russia.
Defoe blotted his international copybook when he flew, frustrated with affairs at Tottenham and England, to Canada and joined Toronto in 2014.
But since he returned, the goals have flowed; four at the tail-end of the 2014-15 season when he first came back, 18 last season, 14 so far this. He has unquestionably been Sunderland's hope of Premier league survival, and still is.
So how does the devout Christian, who does not drink or smoke, do it at his age?
England's player ratings against Lithuania
Sun, March 26, 2017
Express Sport brings you England's player ratings from their World Cup qualifier against Lithuania
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GK: Joe Hart – 7
"I have a better understanding of my body," he said. "I'm trying to turn vegan, which is a funny one because when I go to my mum's she's got every meat you can imagine on the table.
"I'm trying. I eat a lot of fish, but I'm trying. My girlfriend said I have to do it. She puts on these documentaries. It's always helpful when you have someone around you to drive you on. It's not easy but I feel good so I'll continue to do it.
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"I think it's working. I still feel the sharpness. In terms of fitness I'm not fatiguing towards the end of games.
"I still wake up in the morning and look forward to training. I want to try and play as long as I can. I'm doing stuff that will give me the best opportunity to play and score goals.
"I know when I need to have a rest day. I do a lot of cryotherapy. It's not enjoyable, but you try and do it like you're loving it. Everyone wants to play and there's no better feeling than to feel fresh.
Jermain Defoe scoring England's opening goal in the 2-0 win over Lithuania
"I don't find anything hard, because I know the feeling I get scoring goals. It's like when I get in that ice bath for cryotherapy. I don't want to do it, but I know at the weekend I'm going to get rewarded."
And he believes he and his contemporaries, like 36-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, are written off too soon these days.
"The demands on players are so high with the intensity of the games," he said. "But with the sports science, if you do things right and look after yourself, you can keep going."
Defoe admitted last week he might have to leave Sunderland for the sake of his England career if the Black Cats, as looks all but inevitable this season, do drop out of the Premier League.
But after Southgate's recall, nearly four years after his last cap, he has his sights now set on Russia 2018. And he revealed the heartbreak he suffered when previous England coach Roy Hodgson ignored him for the Brazil finals four years ago.
Gareth Southgate shakes hands with Jermain Defoe as he comes off the pitch at Wembley
"Am I capable of challenging for the World Cup? I don't think anything changes. It's down to me to go back to my club and have a good finish to the season," he said.
"It's important to get my head down, keep working hard and just do what I've been doing.
"It was heartbreaking being left out in 2014, because I felt I'd done enough to be involved. Even if it's a five-minute phone call. This time, Gareth phoned me and said, 'Even if you're not in the squad I will still phone you'. As a player you appreciate that."
When it came to Euro 2016, Defoe found out he was not in Hodgson's squad an even tougher way.
"I didn't get a call. I saw it on the telly," he revealed. "It drives you on. All these things play at the back of my mind. I love playing football and I love playing for my country. I still think about it. I never gave up."