JERMAIN Defoe is set to return to where his goalscoring exploits began with Cherries – almost 17 years ago to the day.

The frontman netted his first league goal at Stoke as an 18-year-old during a loan spell from West Ham in October 2000.

It sparked a record-breaking run in which he scored in each of his first 10 games in Division Two.

He bagged 19 goals during the loan spell – 18 in the league – as Cherries surged up the table before missing out on a play-off spot on the final day of the season.

With Defoe’s current league tally on 199, he returns to Stoke on Saturday (3pm) looking to bring up another memorable milestone in his illustrious career.

Asked if he remembered his first goal at what was then known as the Britannia Stadium, the 35-year-old told the Daily Echo: “You remember everything, all the goals and stuff from day one. It is nice to look back on it.

“I was excited because it was my first league game. I played at West Ham when I was 17 and scored but that was in the cup.

“I came on loan here and felt like I had to produce because there were a lot of eyes on me at the time.

“Even though I was young, I felt I just had to go there, do well and score goals because, for me, the main goal was to go back to West Ham and play in the Premier League.

“I was only meant to be here for a few months. I spoke to Harry (Redknapp) and said ‘no, I want to stay because I am loving it’.

“Being around the boys, training every day and the whole environment. Playing league football, we were flying and I was confident.

“I was playing with big Fletch (Steve Fletcher) and even though I was being kicked about, he looked after me. He was the biggest, strongest man in the league.

“I loved it and even when I retire, I will always look back on that time. For me, it was special and that was where it really started.”

Defoe has scored once in the league for Cherries since his return to the club from Sunderland in the summer.

Looking ahead to his return to the Potteries, the former Tottenham and Portsmouth ace claimed it would be a fitting way to bring up another goalscoring accolade, should he find the net.

“I will probably end up scoring now,” he added. “If I could go there and score again, I would be delighted.”

The striker also spoke of his initiation with Cherries during his first spell at the club, in which he had to go into town wearing women’s clothing.

“That was funny,” a smiling Defoe added.

“I was living at my mum’s as a young kid at West Ham and then, all of a sudden, I got the opportunity to come away from home and play league football.

“You are up for anything and I enjoyed being around that football environment – being around my team-mates, going out for lunch and Christmas parties and stuff.

“I was buzzing for it and all the things we did – that is why team spirit was so strong.

“I don’t think we would get away with it now. We would be on the front page of every paper!”