AFC Bournemouth striker Jermain Defoe says the EFL Cup is massive competition as he recalls his greatest memories in the competition.
Defoe made his professional debut in the EFL Cup in a 1-0 win over Walsall in September 2000, and he says it was an amazing experience for him at a young age.
He said: “I was 17 at the time at West Ham, and I remember the day before the game, Harry Redknapp said to me ‘you are training with the first-team’. I think Paolo Di Canio was injured and so was Freddie Kanoute, I remember him telling me I was travelling and I was like ‘wow’.
“My second touch of the game was the goal, the ball fell to Rio Ferdinand and he shot and hit the crossbar, the ball came at a perfect height for me and I just volleyed it in with my left-foot.
“It was amazing because leading up to that point I would be in training practising on my finishing with both feet everyday, and when people say you put the practise in you get the rewards, and that paid off for me and it was my first goal.”
Bournemouth face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening looking to progress to the Semi-Finals of the competition, and the forward says it is the perfect chance to make history.
“In cup games you a creating history and it happens so quick, and before you know it you have won one game and then you are in the Quarter-Final, Semi-Final and then the Final itself,” he added.
“I’ve always said that I have been unlucky in finals, I have been injured where I have missed the Semi’s or the Final, but for me the cup competitions are so important for football clubs.
“In those situations you are always hoping that the lads can go on and win the cup because they are your friends, and you want that winners medal.
Defoe has made 37 appearances in the EFL Cup and scored 23 goals in the process, and the 36-year-old says he has always loved playing in cup games.
He said: “Looking back on my career I have always been one of those players who has wanted to play in the cup games even if I was playing every game in the league.
“Even when the manager wanted to rotate the team, I always wanted to play because I always felt like if you scored 15 or 20 goals in the league and nicked a couple in the cup games, you could look back on scoring 25 to 30 at the end of the season.
“The EFL Cup is a massive competition because it is a chance to get a medal, create history and from very early on in my career I have loved playing in cup games.”