As if, it being a London derby wasn’t enough, Tottenham’s match against Fulham provides an added incentive for Clint Dempsey to try to ensure a win for Spurs at Craven Cottage. Having spent six seasons with Fulham, it became clear early in the summer that Dempsey would be leaving Craven Cottage. It initially looked as if he would be joining up with Liverpool who were reported as being interested in signing him. As negotiations dragged on without coming to a conclusion, in the last week of August, Tottenham stepped in and quickly completed the signing on the last day of the month. Dempsey had an excellent season with Fulham last year when he scored 23 goals in all competitions, taking his total to 60 during his time at Craven Cottage.
When players return to their former clubs there is always that added effort to do well. In recent seasons, meetings with Fulham have been like a reunion with former Tottenham players – Danny Murphy, Bobby Zamora, Stephen Kelly, Simon Davies have all played for Fulham. This year Kelly and Davies remain at the club and were joined by Dimitar Berbatov during the summer. Davies is currently injured while Kelly has only made one Cup appearance this season. Berbatov, however, has scored 5 goals in 10 appearances and will be anxious to perform well against Spurs whom he left in 2008 for Manchester United.
The extra incentive for Dempsey comes from the feeling of not being appreciated at Fulham. He lays the blame for that on former Tottenham manager, Martin Jol. It was reported that Dempsey had gone ‘on strike’ and was fined a week’s wages as he refused to play for Fulham at the beginning of the season. In press interviews before Tottenham’s visit to Craven Cottage, Dempsey expressed his appreciation of the supporters and chairman at Craven Cottage but there was no acknowledgement of his former boss. There is, however, unlikely to be any sympathy for Dempsey from the Fulham supporters when he returns with Tottenham.
“If you always felt valued and appreciated enough, I don’t think you’d ever leave. But it came to a point where I didn’t feel appreciated – not by the fans, but by other situations.”
The comment is an indication of how his relationship with Jol deteriorated and he further referred to incidents that occurred “behind closed doors”.
While Dempsey has scored vital goals in Tottenham’s wins at Manchester United and Southampton, it has taken him time to settle into the Spurs team. In the past two games, however, he has played a greater part in Tottenham’s play. He created Gareth Bale’s goal against West Ham and was involved in the build up to the third. It was from a free-kick for a foul on Dempsey that Bale was provided with the opportunity to score Tottenham’s second against Liverpool. Dempsey will be wanting to make a positive contribution to Tottenham’s performance against Fulham but needs to avoid falling into the difficulties encountered by Emmanuel Adebayor against Arsenal, when his over commitment led to his sending off.
Mousa Dembele will also be returning to Fulham, having just returned from injury. He played against Liverpool on Wednesday, his first start since early October, and showed his usual control in midfield until tiring in the second half.
Away matches with Fulham are always highly competitive. Spurs are undefeated at Craven Cottage in the Premier League since November, 2008 – Harry Redknapp’s first defeat as Tottenham manager. The next season ended in a scoreless draw while Spurs have won the last two. They did, however, lose an FA Cup tie by four goals in 2011 when Michael Dawson was sent off for the second time at Craven Cottage. Spurs won 3 – 1 last season but it was a very tense finish as Fulham searched for an equaliser in the final minutes only to be caught on the counter-attack as Jermain Defoe scored in added time. Fulham were aggrieved by a failed penalty appeal when Walker handled as he fell on the ball in a goalmouth scramble.
At Craven Cottage, Dempsey, Dembele and Jan Vertonghen will meet up with their former manager, Martin Jol, who along with Berbatov will be in opposition to their former club in a London derby so another tense affair can be expected.