Jermain Defoe believes the time has finally come for him to step into Michael Owen's shoes and fire the goals to help England qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
Defoe has always been regarded as Owen's deputy in the England attack, and has been forced to bide his time since making his debut for the national side four years ago. But with Owen left out of the squad for the opening FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Croatia, Defoe knows he will not get a better chance to stake his claim for a permanent place in the England side.
Defoe is brimming with confidence following his move to Portsmouth back in January, and is clearly benefiting from a regular place in the first team. The prolific forward is now hoping to replicate his impressive club form on the international stage, and prove he is good enough to become a major star for England.
Defoe said: "I feel ready. I feel like it's my time. But I won't take anything for granted. I just want to keep learning, improving and working hard in training, which I do. But it's great when you get an opportunity. Everyone wants to play. It doesn't matter what position you're in, you want to be on the pitch. .
It's the best thing in the world to play for your country and I'm feeling confident right now
"When you are playing well at club level and you do get selected for your country you seem to take that form into international football. You want to play in massive tournaments, you want to play for your country. I'm really looking forward to the challenge. I believe that if I just keep working hard and keep learning then hopefully I can do that."
Defoe was a fans' favourite at his former club Tottenham, but the talented forward could never cement a regular place in the team. He was always battling with Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov for a place in the side and could never get into the rhythm of playing regular top-flight football.
Things have now changed following his move to Fratton Park. Defoe admits that he is a confidence player, and thinks that he is now performing at the top of his game.
"It was just getting a fair chance. Just playing football again and being happy. It was a difficult time at Spurs towards the end. I was there three and a half years, and really enjoyed my time. I had some great moments. The fans were fantastic, the lads and everyone involved in the football club.
"But there comes a time when you feel like you need to move on and just play football to be happy again. That's what happened. Looking back I'm so happy I made that decision. When I signed for Portsmouth, after a few games it was great. You feel sharper and stronger. That comes with games. Hopefully I can get a lot sharper now as games go on.
"If you feel sharper it's normal to believe that if you get a chance you will take it. It's fitness as well. I've had a good pre-season. I've worked hard and I feel a lot stronger. I'm looking forward to these games now."
Defoe has been used to playing in a two-man attack throughout his career, and is relishing the chance to play alongside Peter Crouch at Portsmouth this season. But England coach Fabio Capello has already shown that he is ready to use Wayne Rooney in a position just off the striker.
Defoe thinks he will have no problems adjusting to a new formation, and still feels he can produce his best form if Capello continues to use that system.
"That is not a problem for me because we've got legs in the team. We've got fit players in the team: players who want to get forward, get into the box and get on the end of crosses and things like that. .
When the ball comes up to me I know I've got options. I've got players close to me, people who want the ball. We've got quality players. So it's not a problem
"Even when I play with Crouchie sometimes I drop in and try to get involved a little bit more. The game has changed now and I don't think there's a problem because you're going to have players close to you."
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