Clint Dempsey has seen his stature rise once again as Tottenham’s season draws to a close. After a difficult start with Spurs, he established himself in the team before losing out due to the return of Emmanuel Adebayor and injury. Now restored to the team he can smile at three goals in the last two matches.
When Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe dropped out of the Tottenham team due to injury at the beginning of April, the question on everyone’s lips was who will step up to meet the challenge.
At the time, Mousa Dembele suggested that Clint Dempsey could fill the void left by the absentees. He was quoted in an article in the Sun saying,
“Clint is one of the players I was talking about. I remember from my time at Fulham ……..He can score important goals….He has just come back from injury but before that he was showing some good form. That’s the reason I have confidence…”
Dembele was proved right with his former Fulham colleague scoring twice in Basel in Tottenham’s ultimately unsuccessful Europa League match and then scoring the equalising goal against Manchester City which provided Spurs with the confidence to go on and claim the three points with three goals in eight minutes.
Difficult Introduction to White Hart Lane
After scoring 23 goals for Fulham last season, Dempsey endured a difficult time with summer-long transfer negotiations surrounding his departure from Craven Cottage. It took him time to gain match fitness and settle into a new role in Andre Villas-Boas’ team. Dempsey wasn’t the type of player Tottenham supporters had been expecting either as a striker or as someone to fill the void in midfield left by the departure of Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart. It took time for fans to accept that Dempsey could bring something to the team.
Through time he adapted to the challenge of playing in a supporting role to lone striker, Jermain Defoe. It was an effective system which saw Dempsey score vital goals in big games as well as provide a creative touch. He has proved on numerous occasions that he has the ability to be in the right place to score crucial goals, no more so than at Old Trafford when he was following up to score the winner after Bale’s strike had been parried by the goalkeeper. The goal, his first for Spurs, was the goal which brought to an end Tottenham’s long run at Old Trafford without a win.
The return of Adebayor with AVB using two strikers made Dempsey’s place in the team less secure but he continued to add to his goals total in January, including the late, late equaliser against United at White Hart Lane. An injury took him out of the team for a period but he returned to the US team for important internationals in March and was available when Spurs injury problems mounted in recent weeks. He again proved his worth with the two goals in Basel keeping alive Tottenham’s hopes of progress in the Europa League, until the penalty shoot-out. Both of those goals came about due to his persistence and being in the perfect spot.
Against Manchester City, he scored the equaliser being perfectly placed at the back post to plant Gareth Bale’s cross beyond Joe Hart. In commentary Gary Neville was critical of Dempsey when he dropped back into midfield, saying that he wasn’t good enough to play with his back to goal and that he should push on to support the other striker. And so it proved. Dempsey had contributed to Tottenham’s better moments in the first half, creating a great opportunity for Kyle Walker with a perfect through pass to release the full-back and he had a first half header from a corner which went over the bar.
Dempsey has also shown his worth for the US national team. Appointed captain by Jurgen Klinsmann for the recent internationals, Dempsey scored the only goal against Costa Rica and helped in a hard earned scoreless draw in Mexico, to improve his country’s chance of World Cup qualification.
While Dempsey hasn’t been as prolific in front of goal as with Fulham, his goals have made a valuable contribution to keep Tottenham’ season on track and should give him something to smile about.