Dempsey Situation Won't Destroy Fulham
By Bradley King
It may not have come against the most steadfast of opponents but Fulham's 5-0 trouncing of toothless Norwich City on Saturday was a marvellous aside to their wantaway midfielder. As Chris Hughton's team failed to dig in their heels, Fulham filled their boots.
Clint who? The Cottagers did just fine without him.
The American midfielder was the shining light for Fulham last season as he scored 23 goals in all competitions to help Martin Jol's men to an impressive ninth-place finish in the Premier League. But, amid interest from Brendan Rodgers' new-look Liverpool, Dempsey has become unsettled and reportedly refused to play in the match against the Canaries for fear of risking an injury which could scupper a potential move to Anfield.
For much of last season, onlookers could be forgiven for thinking Fulham were, if not quite a one-man team, then certainly a team highly influenced by that one man. Dempsey scored 17 goals in the league alone, in a season where no other Fulham player got close to double figures, with January transfer window signing Pavel Pogrebnyak six strikes the closest thing to top-scorer 'competition'. In fact, Dempsey's shot accuracy and finishing of clear-cut chances was better than that of Manchester City hotshot Sergio Aguero last season.
Martin Jol must have been aware that bigger clubs were bound to come sniffing around Dempsey this season and, as such, the Dutch manager has bought accordingly. Mladen Petric and Huge Rodallega have been drafted in to make up for the lack of goals a Dempsey-shaped void would bring.
The latter looked bright and won a penalty on Saturday while ex-Hamburg striker Petric, still only 31, scored twice and could prove to be a masterstroke of a signing. Petric found the net regularly in the Bundesliga, with over 50 goals for HSV and Borussia Dortmund combined. His best form has evaded him for the past few seasons but if he can find a new lease of life in fresh surroundings, Fulham could have stumbled upon a bargain.
Meanwhile, the experienced players that one has become to associate with Fulham - the likes of Damien Duff, Brede Hangeland and Mark Schwarzer to name a few - continue to perform admirably in the twilight of their careers. Helped on by a new batch of young talent, including the Swedish midfielder Alexander Kacaniklic, who scored against the Canaries, the club from West London could surprise a few this season and improve on last season's finish - with or without Clint Dempsey.