Jermain Defoe is going vegan in order to give himself the best chance possible of prolonging his career at the top level.
Defoe scored England’s opening goal in the 2-0 victory over Lithuania on Sunday at Wembley and continues to defy the years with his prowess in front of goal.
The Sunderland striker’s 14 Premier League goals this season have earned him a recall to the international fold under new manager Gareth Southgate and there is no sign of Defoe slowing down.
“I’m trying to turn vegan but it’s a funny one,” he said. “When I go to my mum’s she’s got every meat you can imagine out on the table.
“My girlfriend said to me you’ve got to do it. She puts on these documentaries. It’s always nice when you’ve got someone around you helping you, driving you on and wanting you to do well. It’s not easy but I feel good so I continue to do it.
“I eat a lot of fish and that but I’m trying!”
The 34-year-old was featuring for England for the first time since November 2013 in Southgate’s new-look attack which has left no place for ex-captain Wayne Rooney and Defoe’s World Cup prospects continue to grow.
“It’s down to me,” he said of his Russia 2018 prospects. “I’ll go back to my club and have a good finish to the season. We’ve got some important games. I know the goals are needed. It’s important I get my head down, keep working hard and just do what I’ve been doing. We’ll see what happens.”
Having missed out on the 2006 World Cup to Theo Walcott and failing to be selected for Euro 2016 by Roy Hodgson, Defoe admits those setbacks have served as motivation for his latest international renaissance.
“I never give up but in my mind I was trying to be realistic,” he said. “There were times when I thought with the previous manager that I didn’t really feel like I was getting an opportunity.
“There were times I was scoring goals, especially last season. Obviously I wasn’t selected for the Euros and I felt like I finished the season strong.
“In my heart I felt I’d done enough to be involved, to have the opportunity to play with this sort of quality.
“All these things play on the back of my mind because I love playing football, I love playing for my country, I still think about it.
“In a way it keeps the fire in your belly. I’ve never been one of those people who want something given to me on a plate. I want to work hard for it. When I have great moments it helps me feel good, I feel proud.
“Never once I did I think I was going to retire from international football. I’ve worked so hard and I still feel sharp. I just always felt if I do get selected I feel like I can still score goals at this level.”
Defoe credits his new international manager with the manner he deals with the player whether they are selected for duty or not. He also admits that Hodgson did not even give him the courtesy of a phone call to reveal he had been snubbed for the Euros.
Where did he find out he hadn’t made the 23 for the plane to France? “On the telly,” he said.
“Gareth phoned me and said even if you weren’t in the squad I’d still phone you. As players, you appreciate that. You have a conversation with the manager and you understand. You think maybe if I do this then I can get in the next squad.”
Defoe is ensuring he stays at the top for as long as possible with a mix of clever training schedules and cryotherapy as well as his dabbling in veganism.
“The demands of the players are so high with the intensity of the games these days,” he said. “For me the key thing is the recovery – how you recover after the games to give yourself the best opportunity to perform in the next game.
“I seem to have got that to a tee. There are a lot of things I do away from training, away from playing that helps me to perform on match day.
“The sharpness comes with games but in terms of fitness, fatiguing towards the end of games, I still feel good.
“I think I’ve got a better understanding of my body now. When I’m at the club I know what days I need to have a rest day. Everyone knows I do a lot of cryotherapy.
“When I get in that ice bath I don’t want to do it, at the weekend you get rewarded. It’s hard but in a way it’s easy.
“It’s just doing things that aren’t enjoyable but you try and do it like you’re loving it. When you play – everyone wants to play but everyone wants to feel fresh in the game – there’s no better feeling.
“ I’m trying to tick every box. I still wake up in the morning and look forward to training. The buzz is still there. I just want to try and play for as long as I can.
“My mum always said it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Years later I’m back in the squad at 34, scoring goals for my country again and I’m just delighted.”