Jermain Defoe's England return a 'great story', says Gareth Southgate

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England 2-0 Lithuania: Gareth Southgate 'would have put house on Defoe scoring'

Jermain Defoe's return to the England squad is a "great story" according to manager Gareth Southgate after the striker scored in Sunday's 2-0 World Cup qualifier win over Lithuania.

The Sunderland forward, 34, made his first England appearance since November 2013 and marked the occasion with the opening goal in the 21st minute.

"I'm pleased for Defoe he got the goal," said Southgate.

"The bigger picture for us was his contribution throughout the camp."

England created few clear-cut chances after Defoe's opener, but managed to breach the last line of defence once more in the 66th minute when substitute Jamie Vardy scored with his first touch.

Southgate added: "I'm pleased for the two lads who have got the goals, a great story for Jermain and I felt Jamie added something to us."

With Tottenham's Harry Kane almost certain to be part of the 2018 World Cup squad, if England qualify, Southgate will have to decide who else will fill the other forward berths.

Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge, Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll and Marcus Rashford will all be vying for a spot, along with veteran Defoe, who will be 35 by the time of next summer's tournament in Russia.

"I think we've got to look every time we get together as to who is in form," Southgate said when asked if the striker was a realistic proposition.

"I don't know if we can have a distinct pecking order because players that are playing well deserve the opportunity.

"If he is scoring goals in the Premier League and playing as well as he has this season, then there's absolutely no reason why he couldn't."

Bradley Lowery (left) and Jermain Defoe
Bradley Lowery (left) and Jermain Defoe stepped out on to the Wembley Stadium pitch together

It was a memorable day for Defoe, who led out the team with Bradley Lowery, the terminally-ill five-year-old who calls the Sunderland striker his "best mate".

"It's good to be back," said the Black Cats striker.

"Just to win the game was important and we did that. It's hard to put in words really to be back.

"I had to keep my emotions in at the beginning with little Bradley with me. You can imagine how I felt doing that having done it with my club as well. Just to be back playing with the lads felt good."

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