Jermain Defoe’s career will go full circle when he lines up for Bournemouth against Watford this weekend — almost 17 years after making his name in Cherries colours.
He has happy memories of his first stint at the South Coast club, scoring in a record 10 Football League games in a row as an 18-year-old on loan from Harry Redknapp’s West Ham.
Boss Eddie Howe reckons striker Defoe, now 34, is the same player as the teenager he first appeared alongside.
Howe said: “As a person, he’s a lot wiser. He’s had some unbelievable experiences in football and experiences in his personal life which shape you as a person.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him and how he’s integrated himself into the squad from day one. In terms of his game, I don’t think too much has changed.
“He is a massive goal threat, his finishing is of the highest level and his movement is always something that has stood out for me.”
Bournemouth were in the domestic game’s third tier during Defoe’s first spell.
He has returned on a free transfer from relegated Sunderland this summer, signing a lucrative three-year deal.
And he believes he can match the history-making heights he reached as a youngster, which announced his arrival to the football world.
Defoe said: “It’s been a long time. This is where it started for me. To be here again years later is a special situation and challenge I’m really looking forward to.
“If I can do what I did many years ago I’m sure everyone would be happy. Ten in a row would be crazy, but why not? You have to set your sights high and I’ve always tried to do that.”
Defoe is targeting a place in the England squad for next summer’s World Cup in Russia after being recalled by Gareth Southgate at the end of last season.
Even though he turns 35 in October, the former Tottenham and Portsmouth star believes he has plenty left in the tank, saying: “You keep working hard and if you believe I have always said age doesn’t matter.”
A groin injury restricted Defoe to a substitute’s role in the 1-0 opening-day defeat at West Brom, but he is set to start against the Hornets.
Howe added: “Jermain felt a tightness in his groin and didn’t train for two weeks before the West Brom game. He is in contention to start. It was an uncharacteristically dormant attacking performance from us, so Jermain comes into play.
“Because of international duty he came in a week late to train with us.
“We need to make sure Jermain is able to do himself justice and play 100 per cent. He’s looked sharp in training and been good with his movement.”
Bournemouth have drawn their last four games with Watford and Howe expects another close contest.
He added: “We have had some really good battles with Watford down the years, going back to our Championship days. There have been such small margins between the teams on every occasion.”