Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe believes winning the Golden Boot this season will help his side qualify for the Champions League.
The 27-year-old leads the scoring charts after his five goals in the 9-1 demolition of Wigan on Sunday, taking his Premier League tally to 11 and moving Spurs back into the top four.
England boss Fabio Capello has warmed to Defoe so a ticket to the World Cup next year looks increasingly likely – and by that time the former Portsmouth striker hopes to be preparing to face the best at club level too.
“I’d like the Golden Boot as it would be my first,” he said. “I’d like (Tottenham) to finish fourth to be honest, it would be fantastic for the club.
“I always watch football and I always watch Champions League games. It’s a competition where you’re playing against the best. I’d be playing against the best defenders in the world in a great competition.”
With Defoe, Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch providing the goals for boss Harry Redknapp, there is genuine hope at White Hart Lane of staying in the top four if their strikers keep scoring.
“In my first season here I got 22,” Defoe said. “I just want to keep doing it. At the end of the day it’s good for the club if I score goals because it means we are winning games.
“It’s the World Cup year and that is at the back of your mind but it’s important to focus on your club, keep your head down and give yourself the best opportunity to get on the plane. That is all I can do.”
Defoe has scored goals throughout his career but Redknapp has noticed a difference this year. His striker broke his foot in January and used the time on the sidelines to bulk up his upper-body strength.
When he returned to action he continued with his usual extra finishing practice after training, helped by former Spurs strikers Les Ferdinand and Clive Allen, who are now coaches at the club. Defoe also studies footage of ex-strikers such as Alan Shearer and Andy Cole.
“I always do my finishing after training so when I get in that situation on match day I’m familiar with it and can take the chance,” Defoe said.
“Every day for about 20 minutes a few of the boys stay behind with Les Ferdinand and Clive Allen. I watched some of Clive’s goals on youtube and it’s important to do that to learn.
“He got 49 goals in one season and that is unbelievable. If I did that I don’t know what I’d do. It was harder playing up there on your own like he did. He’s still got it and can still finish now.
“I’ve spoken to all the great strikers over the years like Les and Ian Wright. Wrighty tells me that no matter how many you score, always try to get another right until the final whistle. I’ve got that mentality now to try to get more.”
That was the case against Wigan, with Defoe scoring his first goals since his dismissal against Portsmouth.
After 15 goals for club and country this season, it appears that only self-destruction could prevent Defoe from his World Cup place – but he insists he has learned from his red card for retaliation.
“The manager said what he said,” added Defoe, who famously missed out on the World Cup in 2006. “When I got sent off I knew what I had done straight away and it was out of character. I can’t remember the last time I was booked.
“It was important to come back like this because I owed something to the team. It was stupid and I shouldn’t have got sent off.
“I was lucky because I only missed two weeks. At the end of the day it was out of character and when that happens it is not a big issue.”