Spurs star says leaving Upton Park was a ‘massive mistake’.
Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe has admitted he still loves former club West Ham and says leaving Upton Park for White Hart Lane was a ‘massive mistake’.
Defoe grew up a stone’s throw from West Ham’s soon-to-be new ground in Stratford and spent five years with the Hammers before joining Spurs in 2004.
The striker, now 30, is reviled by the Hammers faithful after handing in a transfer request less than 24 hours after their relegation from the Premier League in 2003.
The England striker is a fan favourite at Spurs but, in a surprising revelation, Defoe has admitted it was a mistake to leave the East London club.
“It was a massive mistake. I didn’t really want to do it,” Defoe said.
“We’re talking about leaving the club I was in love with at the time because I came through the youth system with my friends, the fans loved me there. They were brilliant – every game they sang my name.
“The person who represented me at the time said, ‘You need to hand in a transfer request and get in early because all the lads are going to leave.’
“I remember going in and I was so nervous. It was (then Hammers chief executive) Paul Aldridge and I gave him the letter and he said, ‘What’s this?’ And I said, ‘It’s a transfer request’.
“And he looked at me as if to say, ‘Are you kidding?’
“The backlash was crazy. I felt like I was on my own and people were absolutely abusing me.
“To this day I can imagine West Ham fans look at me and think, ‘Who does he think he is? How can you do that? You’re a Judas’. And it’s quite sad really because I can honestly say I still love that club.”
Defoe has started just one Premier League match this season – ironically the embarrassing 3-0 home defeat to Sam Allardyce’s side – and the former Portsmouth forward has admitted he is desperate for first team football ahead of next summer’s World Cup.
The transfer window re-opens in eight weeks time and West Ham are in need of a striker, with Andy Carroll still on the sidelines.