Clint Dempsey is delighted to be making a bit of a name for himself in England.
The skilful midfielder is enjoying the opportunity to impress in the Premier League under Lawrie Sanchez. He told the Times:
“I’m from Texas, in the South, so I grew up playing with Hispanic players and watching the Latin style of football,” he said. “That has always interested me, so I bring that style to the game as well as the American never-say-die attitude that you see in Brian McBride.”
When he arrived, most attention focused on what was misinterpreted as his alternative career as a rapper. Don’t Tread, the track that he recorded with the late Houston rapper, Big Hawk, under the nickname “Deuce” – chosen for the No 2 jersey he wore at college and with the New England Revolution – is arguably the best recording ever by a footballer. It became the unofficial anthem of the US team, but there will be no follow-up.
“I was never really trying to sell records or anything like that,” he said. “It was something I always did growing up, listening to rap. As I got older, I started listening to Texas rap and other styles that were coming through. The rap that me and my friends did was more freestyle; you have an instrumental beat and then kinda wing it. Then I was asked if I wanted to do the track with Big Hawk, who was one of my idols, and I was like, ‘Yeah, cool.’
“Because of the World Cup, it snowballed and became a video. It was good for Big Hawk because he was trying to go into other outlets than just Texas. But, just before the World Cup, he was shot and killed. I’m trying to have a family and not to be part of an atmosphere that can lead to something crazy like that. I just like the music.”
Sadly, it was not Dempsey’s first brush with tragedy. The Don’t Tread video ends with Dempsey placing a flower on the grave of his elder sister, Jennifer, a promising tennis player who died of a brain aneurysm at 16. However, she remains a part of his best moments on the field. “I remember when I was young she said that if she ever died and was up in Heaven, every time I shot she would help me score,” he said. “So when I score I look up and thank God, but I remember her, as well, and that talk that we had.
“I write the names of all of the people that I have known who have influenced me that have passed away on my shin-guards, so that every time I lace up, I remember that life is short and that I am doing what I love to do.” In Britain, he is now in a country where his efforts are appreciated. “Everybody knows what’s going on, they follow their teams religiously,” he said. “I like being around a sport that everybody’s into. Growing up, the sport that I played was one where everybody said: ‘Why are you playing this?’ You do it because you love it and it is icing on the cake when other people enjoy it as much as you.”
What he loves most is scoring goals and he has found the net three times in four matches, including Fulham’s 1,000th Premier League goal, against Wigan Athletic, before Saturday’s 3-3 draw against Manchester City. He lists his strike against Ghana in the World Cup finals in Germany as his most important, followed by the winner against Liverpool last season that kept Fulham up and a goal for his country against Brazil. Chelsea are in his sights at Stamford Bridge next weekend.
He still finds it something of a shock that a boy from Nacogdoches, a small town in American football-obsessed Texas, should be performing on such stages in an alien sport. To him, though, soccer came naturally. “I’ve hit home runs, scored touchdowns and three-pointers,” he said. “but nothing is better than scoring a goal.”