Interesting interview with Clint Dempsey on the offal this afternoon where he talks excitedly about his development this season. I was talking to a friend of mine in the pub before the Hull game. He was one of those who only convinced about Dempsey this season. Regular readers will know that I’ve not been slow to sing the American’s praises and, since he replaced Zoltan Gera in the starting line-up, Clint’s really taken his chance.
The way he takes about his improvement through the course of the season is very interesting. The fact that he picks up on his tracking back and defensive work is interesting because it was the area where I thought he would find it most difficult to fit into Hodgson’s system. If he is to be played on the flanks, getting back to support his full back when the opposition have the ball is a vital part of our defensive shape – and to his credit he’s not shirked his responsibilities.
I’ve morphed into a more of a complete footballer and someone who can get forward and back and is not a liability defensively. That was something that some thought was a weakness in my game but this year I’ve shown it’s one of my strengths. I feel I’m more of a complete player, my passing and the tempo of my play has got better by taking less touches and being smarter.
The second part of that paragraph marks out the most interesting improvement in Dempsey’s game for me. His passing is a lot more incisive now and he seems to need less time on the ball, which is a plus point in the high-octane Premier League. He’s certainly a lot more clinical in front of goal, as his scoring record suggests, but he’s less afraid afraid to have a crack from distance now. In both the Blackburn and Hull games, Dempsey was unfortunate not to score with long-range efforts that were splendidly saved.
Clint also speaks about how delighted he is to be playing in England, where football is the number one sport, compared to his homeland, where the game has to struggle with basketball, baseball and American football for airtime and is still seen as a predominantly European and kids’ pursuit.
It’s a great culture and awesome to be in a country where everybody is so passionate about a sport that you’re so passionate about. To be here and be around that atmosphere, playing in the Premier League, is a dream come true and I’m really enjoying it. I’m just trying to be the best player I can be.
He’s not resting on his laurels either.
I just get my head down, work as hard as I can and keep my ears open to what I’m being asked to do as well as staying true to myself. It’s been tough but it’s made me a better, more complete player.