Fulham Blog: Don’t Tread on Dempsey
The upcoming summer transfer window will be an important one for Clint Dempsey
April 19th, 2012
At the beginning of the week, the shortlist of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award was announced. Manchester City trio of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Joe Hart are joined in the six man field by Scott Park of Tottenham, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Arsenal captain Robin van Persie.
One glaring omission from the list is Fulham’s Clint Dempsey.
The United States of America men’s national team player has come of age for Fulham this season, contributing 16 league goals and been credited with earning the club nine points single handedly thanks to his goals. The versatile, supremely capable and fast-thinking Dempsey has always been able to score goals – a notable strike against Stoke in January 2010 and a vital effort in the monumental victory of Juventus in the Europa League jump immediately to mind.
This season it has been the consistency with which Dempsey has found the net that has delighted Fulham fans. Free-kicks, headers, finishing touches on sweeping moves – Dempsey has time and again, popped up at the right moment to convert the chance. In the word of Dempsey’s rap alter ego Deuce on his seminal track ‘Don’t Tread’ – “I’m a just keep it real, and my … ghetto dreams will be fulfilled, and on the field, Deuce gonna show his skills.” Clearly, we are now seeing the skills Dempsey was referencing.
And it is not just the incredible haul of 22 goals in all competitions that Fulham have to thank Dempsey for. The American’s all-round game is noticeably improved upon where it was last season. He makes tackles more frequently, intercepts the ball more swiftly, loses possession less often and has already made more successful passes this term than last. Dempsey has much more of an effect on the team in his play and that is in no small way down to his consistent selection in a central role.
Where previous managers Roy Hodgson and Mark Hughes favoured a disciplined, rigid 4-4-2 formation, Martin Jol’s preference for the more continental 4-2-3-1 has got the best out of Clint. Instead of being shunted out wide desperate for a licence to drift inside or having to lead the line in an unnatural position, Dempsey’s central position has really allowed him to shine.
So much so, he is now a daily feature in the transfer rumours columns of every media organisation.
At 29, he is pretty close to being the finished article of a player. Having studied at Furman University as a health and exercise major, Dempsey was 21 before he made his professional debut with the New England Revolution in Major League Soccer. In truth, it is understandable he is only now reaching his peak and excelling as a player.
The upcoming summer transfer window will be an important one for Clint Dempsey himself and Fulham as a club. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United are all said to be tracking his progress and with his current contract set to expire at the end of the 2012/13 season, decisions have to be made and soon. Clint has been the best he ever has this season and that leaves the situation precariously balanced. A contract offer from Fulham has already been tabled and Martin Jol’s hope is that he’ll be able to retain Dempsey.
“I can’t predict the future. We want to keep him and hopefully he wants to stay. We have offered him a very good deal,” admitted Jol. “He knows he is very appreciated at our club. If we want to be a top side we need players who can score more than 20 goals a season.”
Dempsey has the option of taking a new, likely improved deal offered by Fulham or walking away and into a highly lucrative contract in little over 12 months’ time on a free transfer. Should the American plumb for the latter option, it’ll leave Fulham with two options. They could obviously sell Dempsey to one of the many apparent suitors who are circling around Craven Cottage or allow the then 30 year-old midfielder to walk out of the club in 2013 knowing they have probably got his best years out of him. Of course, Clint is well within his right to reject any potential move – but such a strategy does welcome the possibilities of injury or even a severe dip in form impacting where he starts the 2013/14 season.
One overwhelming advantage for any of United, Spurs or Arsenal signing Dempsey could be his effect of the North American “soccer” market. Behind Man United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea, the Cottagers have arguably the next biggest fan base in America and Dempsey, a star of the United States side, is a big part of the merchandise they shift.
For now, Fulham fans can enjoy seeing one of the best players in the Premier League in full flight. Regardless of his baffling omission from the Player’s Player of the Year shortlist or where he might start next season, Dempsey has been a joy to behold and the key man in the club’s summer. His retention could be just as important as the arrival of any marquee signings.
Read the rest of Ryan Keaney’s Footballscores.com Fulham Blog.