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Clint Dempsey Rumors: 4 Reasons the Fulham Star Should Stay at Craven Cottage

Louis HamweyAnalyst IIIApril 9, 2012

Clint Dempsey Rumors: 4 Reasons the Fulham Star Should Stay at Craven Cottage

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    Clint Dempsey is coming off a heck of a weekend. Two goals in Fulham’s 3-0 victory over Bolton added to his team- and career-best 15 league total. Performances like the one on Saturday have made him a fan favorite around Craven Cottage, but also fueled speculation about an impending departure.

    For the first time ever, it seems an American may be at the center of some of the biggest transfer stories during the upcoming summer. The Sun reports the 29-year-old is the object of desire for two rival London-based teams, Tottenham and Arsenal. Even Manchester United is rumored to be looking to add his services to their already talented pool of players.

    All this speculation has been welcomed by Dempsey, who is playing it safe, not expressing any interest in leaving the club. However, he is yet to sign an extension on his contract, which is set to end after the next season. If no deal is made, there could be a good chance the club cashes in on the player rather than letting him go for nothing.

    But this move would be foolish for both the club and Dempsey himself. Here are four reasons they should both work to keep him at Craven Cottage.

America’s Love Affair with Fulham

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    The US stands just a couple thousand miles apart from the biggest clubs in world football, like the world’s largest untapped oil deposit. Teams are looking to cash in on its fruits. The big boys like Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Liverpool have all set up some decent followings, but their names extend well beyond the reach of their borders through their size alone.

    But how is it that a club who has never won a major cup, plays its games in the cozy confines of a 25,000-seat stadium known as the “Cottage” and is a year-in, year-out mid-table finisher challenge those big boys for the hearts of Americans?

    They like our players.

    A few weeks ago, ESPN Soccernet columnist David Hirshey explored the popularity Fulham has in the US and abroad. Pointing all of us out to be “closest Fulham fans,” he describes the club as everybody’s second-favorite team. And you know what? He is right, especially in the States.

    The American love affair with Fulham did not start with Dempsey. Former US star Brian McBride first made the move to the club in 2004 and soon rose through the ranks to become captain and a fan favorite amongst Cottagers. So popular was he that, upon his retirement, they renamed a sports bar in the stadium after him—the highest honor you could receive at a place so infatuated with their local watering holes.

    Dempsey has continued the trend of Americans making it big in west London by having consistently good seasons year in and year out, keeping the relationship between country and club thriving. As long as Fulham keeps their star there, the club’s presence will always be large in the goldmine of the USA.

Possibly Becoming a Bit Player

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    Dempsey’s time at Fulham has been impressive, but not necessarily easy. Through his first few seasons, he found himself serving as more of a role player than anything, struggling to find the pitch, despite impressive goal scoring tallies.

    It had partly to do with a revolving door of managers—four in all since he arrived to the club. Each looked at him as someone who could come on in late-game situations, not an every-game starter. However, he quickly changed the minds of his coaches, showing that he was as capable of producing as anyone in the league. Within time he found himself back in the starting XI.

    Martin Jol made the right decision upon his coming to the club careful to not make the same mistakes as his predecessors. Dempsey was the go-to guy from game one, and it has paid off with an impressive 21 goals in all competitions this season.

    However, if Dempsey were to leave Fulham, he would again find himself fighting for a starting spot. The teams mentioned in the opening slide all have the kind of depth Fulham could only dream of. Dempsey would not be the center of the attack on any of these bigger squads, and may find himself back on the bench.

    Turning 30 years old next year, he is easily nearing the back end of his prime, with the prospect of the future not being nearly as bright as the past two seasons.

    His talents are of use to many clubs, but they are no more spectacular than the many young superstars coming up through the ranks and with the future always in mind, it would make more sense to work towards building of youth than getting a final two or three good years out of Dempsey.

    Dempsey cannot afford to find himself in a bit role again. If the US want any hope of performing well at the 2014 World Cup, an over-30 Dempsey will need to be at his best. He won’t be if his past two seasons were in bit roles.

Fulham Is Not That Far off

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    Let me begin by saying that I am not predicting a Premier League trophy any time in the near future for the Cottagers. The way things are currently the only way to have such a chance is to either buy your title or rely on decades of past history. Fulham cannot and has none so that is out of the question.

    However, that does not mean they are not poised to make a potential run for Europe next season.

    Fulham currently stands 10th in the table, but only two points spate them from seventh in a very tight mid-pack race. A European spot is out of the question this campaign as they trail too far behind the top five to make a late surge.

    This season has been somewhat disappointing for the club as whole. With the sudden form of Dempsey, the fans would rightly expect bettering their eighth-place finish last season, but it looks as if that is about where they will end up this year. A tough start to the season saw them drop to the bottom of the table, winning only one of their first nine, making the entire year an uphill climb.

    As usual they have had their results against the big boys along the way, frustrating the super powers with draws against City, Arsenal and Chelsea, plus wins over Liverpool and Arsenal in return matches.

    If Fulham had gotten off to an even okay start, they could potentially be looking at a Europe spot this season. Dempsey is a huge reason for that and with a little help around him could thrive even more. The team itself has good players, but are really missing that decisive man who can play along with Dempsey making the team that bit much better.

    It is not quite accurate to say Fulham is a complete side, but also not fair to suggest they are irrelevant. If the club can keep Dempsey and bring in one or two more guys in support, they could become a real threat for those top spots in the league.

Hold on to That Romance

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    I generally shy away from the romantic notions of sports, as those are kind of banal and cliché. After all, there is very little that you can connect and identify with on a club who spends upwards of £20 million in one transfer window being deemed buying on the cheap.

    But there is a certain allure about what they do at Fulham. Perhaps it has something to do with their tiny little stadium smack dab in one of the world’s cultural centers. Or maybe it’s the fact that year in and year out, they are that one team that, if you slip up for even a moment, will make you pay. It could even be nationalistic bias, always keen on giving Americans a shot when few others will.

    Whatever the reason, Fulham remains a club that beckons toward some kind of yesterday notion of sport.

    Dempsey is lucky to be a part of this. For the years since he made his move from the MLS, he has been welcomed at the club and beloved by the fans as his aura of a hardworking American reflects the culture that surrounds this commercial section of the region.

    There is little doubt in my mind that a move to any big club would end any way other than seeing Dempsey continue his excellent form. He is a talented and smart player, with all the faculties necessary for Premier League play. But if he were to make the move to Chelsea or Arsenal, he would just become another cog in their machine—an industrious player whose attitude is lost in the politics of big-time football.

    But at Fulham he remains the man, and if he continues to play like he has this season for a few more to come, that man will slowly turn to myth and finally become a Craven Cottage legend.

Do You Think Dempsey Should Stay at Fulham?

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    It will be a big topic of debate as the summer window opens, quite possibly the biggest ever amongst American soccer fans. Heck, it may even get some coverage from the major sports outlets in the states: the future of Clint Dempsey.

    There are plenty of reasons why a move to a big club shout intrigue him—money, Europe, title contention. But all of that is not guaranteed. It would be a huge risk Dempsey is taking to seek it out, and possibly one that could cause him to spiral downward.

    What he has now with Fulham is too great to risk, but perhaps you see it otherwise. Do you think Dempsey should look for a move to one of the big clubs? Or is it best for him and Fulham that he signs an extension through the rest of his career?

    As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!

     

    Follow me on Twitter: @thecriterionman

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