Since Jack used his post earlier today to wax lyrical about Danny Murphy, I’m going to turn tonight’s spotlight onto Clint Dempsey. Like Rich, I’d been a fan of the Texan since he arrived from the New England Revolution for around £1.5m in January 2007. Judging by the number of replica shirts I see on a matchday with his name emblazoned across the back, I’m not alone.
Dempsey, or Dumpsey as one of the tediously boring wind-up merchants on TIFF calls him, is an enthusiastic and likeable character, who survived a family tragedy in his childhood and showed plenty of heart on his road to success in the professional game. More than that, he’s a gifted footballer. Recently, Roy Hodgson told a fans’ forum that he perhaps doesn’t rate him as highly as Dempsey rates himself and for a while it seemed like the American might be on his way out as Zoltan Gera secured himself a starting berth on the left of our midfield.
Clint’s perhaps a victim of his own versatility, much like Gareth Barry or Owen Hargreaves in English terms I suppose. He’s not the best left midfielder in the world but he’ll put a shift in there as he did when he first arrived (scoring that crucial goal against Liverpool to prolong our Premier League status) and again in the vital games during the Great Escape last year. I don’t think he’s entirely comfortable on the right of an orthodox quartet either but once again there’s no questioning his commitment. His best position is probably in the hole behind the strikers, but such is our luxury of riches in midfield, it is unlikely we’ll see him deployed there too often.
He even played a good deal of last season (the dismal part of it) as a striker in the absence of Brian McBride. Dempsey made a decent fist of it, too, scoring six goals before Christmas – a return that’s unlikely to be equalled by either of our big money arrivals this time around, Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson. He’s popped up with some crucial goals and is very good in the air (witness that thumping header against Spurs last year) but he sometimes drifts in and out of games. He was a permanent feature yesterday in what I thought was his best performance of his Fulham career so far.
His return to the side has coincided with our recent revival that has carried us to the dizzy heights of eighth at Christmas. One of the great things about Dempsey is that he tries to bring something different to a midfield that can sometimes look rather one-paced, a little too samey. Yesterday, he was in his element. Running at Middlesbrough with pace, flicking the ball brilliantly through his legs and finishing with calm assurance to put the icing on a fine move for our third.
Something tells me, that if he can keep delivering on this form, he’ll be a key performer for Fulham and the United States for sometime to come. He’s certainly got the best song of a current Fulham player. Let’s hope he continues to give us plenty to sing about.