We don't intend to go down - Moyes dodges Defoe contract talk
David Moyes is refusing to countenance the possibility of Sunderland losing star striker Jermain Defoe for free at the end of the season.
The 34-year-old was finally handed the chance to resurrect his international career last Sunday and scored the opener in a man-of-the-match display as England saw off Lithuania 2-0 at Wembley.
His performance was a continuation of the stunning form he has shown on Wearside since joining Sunderland in the January transfer window in 2015. The former Tottenham striker has netted 33 times in 78 league appearances, helping Sunderland twice avoid relegation to the Championship.
Reports this week have suggested Defoe has a clause in his contract that will allow him to leave for free in the summer should Sunderland go down - they are seven points adrift with 10 games remaining - but Moyes was in bullish mood when asked about the situation ahead of Saturday's trip to Watford.
He told reporters: "We aren't planning to go down, we are planning to stay up.
"If we don't stay up, we will answer the questions later."
Moyes was more forthcoming when asked about Defoe's contribution this season and the way he conducts himself off the pitch.
"When you live correctly it gives you a great chance of longevity in your career. I've seen it with Ryan Giggs, who had a great length of career due to how he lived," he said.
"Jermain is the same, he trains every day, looks after himself, eats correctly, doesn't drink. You have to do that nowadays because the young ones are fit, very strong, fast and want to take over so you have to work harder the older you get to stay in the game."
Defoe's future will be the main topic of conversation should the Wearsiders perish and there will be no shortage of interested parties with another of Defoe's former clubs, West Ham, reportedly leading the chase.
Moyes himself will also see his position come under scrutiny should that scenario play out but the 53-year-old is confident he will be allowed to remain in the post whatever happens.
He said: "I always felt I had that [security] from the day I came in. It was always said that there is a bigger job to be done and that it might take a bit more time. If you say that then you want to stay with it.
"You will have seen quite a lot of half decent managers come through the door here, maybe it's not just the managers. As managers we take the rap, that's part of the job. If you are not winning then you will always get criticism. When you're winning it's easier."
Central defenders John O'Shea and Lamine Kone have been passed fit for the trip to Vicarage Road but the game may come too soon for midfielder Lee Cattermole. Striker Victor Anichebe remains sidelined.