Sunderland prodigy Joel Asoro reveals the advice Jermain Defoe has passed on to him
Jermain Defoe departs Sunderland having had a major impact on the next generation.
The 34-year-old striker, who is leaving for Bournemouth on a free in the wake of relegation, took youngsters Joel Asoro and Josh Maja under his wing – with Asoro admitting there is “nobody better to learn from.”
The teenager made his Sunderland debut in the home defeat to Middlesbrough earlyu last season, becoming the club’s youngest ever Premier League player at just 17 years and 117 days.
Asoro broke onto the first-team scene during the pre-season tour of France, impressing former boss David Moyes with his pace and direct play.
The Black Cats’ Under-23 players regularly trained alongside their first-team counterparts at the Academy of Light and it is an opportunity 18-year-old Asoro has thrived on.
And training alongside Defoe has been an enlightening experience for the Swedish prospect.
Asoro said: “It is always good to get that first-team experience, in and around the first-team players.
“Training with the likes of Jermain Defoe is brilliant and he is probably the best striker I have ever seen.
“Playing for a team at the bottom of the league but still scoring 15 goals every season, that’s when you know he is really good – there is nobody better to learn from.
“Jermain gives us little tips, he talks to us often, ‘do this, don’t focus on that. Be yourself. ‘
“All of that advice is invaluable, it is really good to have someone helping you develop.”
Asoro made further first-team appearances against Shrewsbury and QPR in the EFL Cup and against Burnley in the FA Cup.
At Under-23 level, he scored seven goals in 30 appearances, helping Elliott Dickman’s side reach the final of the Premier League International Cup against Porto at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland were thoroughly outplayed that night, going down 5-0 to their Portuguese counterparts, but the Sweden Under-21 international has caught the eye this campaign.
And he has enjoyed playing alongside Maja, another young player Sunderland’s coaching staff have high hopes for.
“Me and Josh have struck up a good partnership,” added Asoro.
“He knows what I’m good at and vice versa.
“It depends how the game goes where I play, if their centre backs are really big and strong then I will probably go out wide as I am not that tall.
“But our partnership is good.”
Asoro is awaiting the European Under-21 Championships, which kicks off on June 16, with Sweden drawn in Group A alongside England, whose squad includes Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, Slovakia and Poland.
Sweden meet England in the opener in Kielce on the opening day of the tournament, before tackling the Poles on June 19 and Slovakia on June 22, with the latter two ties scheduled to be staged in Lubin.
The two top sides in each group qualify for the semi-finals.
This is the second successive tournament Sweden and England have met in the group stage, with Jesse Lingard’s 85th-minute goal giving England a 1-0 win in 2015.