The scoreline Saturday looked good as Charlton were seen off 4-0 in the Cup. The brief highlights on TV however told nothing of the true story, but thank heavens the Yank was on the top of his game. Two unfussy clinical finishes gave Fulham breathing space as Clint twice poached goals in the box from open play. Entrusted with another penalty, the goalie obligingly dived out of the way as Clint ran up to power the ball one yard right of centre - precisely where he's drilled efforts saved by Cech and Vorm in the past year. The Addicks hadn't done their homework, and Deuce had his hat-trick.
Though football tends to get over-analysed, and while I accept comparisons with other players rarely bear scrutiny, those first two strikes represented the perfect leitmotif to the American's five year stint by the Thames. I'd like to know what it takes to raise Clint's pulse rate, the guy really does have ice in his veins. The Texan would make the perfect gunslinger.
Dare I suggest on the evidence of this season, both openings would have been missed by an AJ in decline. The first was dinked over the keeper with the minimum of fuss after a slight deflection caught the Addicks defence off-guard. The second from a Ruiz lay off was a first time poke of perfect placement but no real power a fraction of a second before two defenders closed him down. Such are the fine margins for decision making in the frantic pace of today's game. Andy would have missed the far post for the first and found his shot blocked on the 2nd.
Forget all the coaching manuals. It comes down to instinct. When to pass, hold or shoot for the very best is simply intuitive. You can learn how to read a game, cover defensively, create space and integrate within a system, but that's for the Deschamps 'water carriers' of this world. The likes of Cantona, Best, Pele and Messi inhabit a different plane.
We're not quite ready to induct our favourite American into the pantheon of greats just yet, but what a return Fulham have had for their money since January of 2007. Watching Clint down the years, his unflagging work-rate, his own iron discipline, the measured, pragmatic quotes given out, his obvious bravery and sheer tenacity on the park, and above all that unremitting commitment to self-improvement, make him the brightest of jewels in Fulham's crown. His goals down the seasons have been pretty valuable too. His next for the cause will represent goal number 50 for FFC in all competitions. How fitting should it come at the end of this landmark week at Blackburn's Ewood Park. As I write the psychotic Balotelli is on the box for Man City. A player I admire, but the boy's as balanced as a giraffe on ice. A greater contrast to our model pro you could not find. Clint Dempsey, we Fulham fans salute you!
The footballing gods decided, after being drawn six straight home ties in the FA Cup going back to Kettering away in 2010, we were due an away tie. As Sunday's draw got down to the last eight balls there were just two tricky computations to avoid - Swansea or Everton. We got Everton at their place, along with Arsenal, the one ground in the UK where we just cannot get a win! Aha, that was before I was reminded that we have never actually lost to them in the Cup. There have been three match-ups, including the famous 2-1 win en route to Wembley in 75. Fulham were halfway down the 2nd division then, and Everton led the 1st! May the video of that famous 5th round tie act as our motivation for round 4. For heaven's sake, and I say this year after year, they really are an average bunch. But what comes over us when we go to Goodison?
Before then, I think I'd trade off a loss at Everton for sticking it to Blackburn this Saturday. Still not sure how they held out for a point early season at the Cottage. Yes, they are showing some guts in their fight for survival, but we are an improving side, will certainly look to play the more enterprising football, and it would be good to see them back in the Championship (they came up with us in 2001). Two winnable home games follow on in Newcastle and WBA. 30 points by early February will certainly banish all thoughts of a relegation scrap.
Will Fulham boast any new signficant faces by then? Somehow I doubt it. Any big names drafted in are likely to be loan deals, maybe a player of Huddlestone's calibre to cover for Danny or a striker perhaps. The club's focus seems to be on looking to attract promising young talent from around the UK.
Of course, new to West London is the return of Mark Hughes (and retinue) to the managerial hot seat at QPR. Yes indeed, being out of work for 7 months and over-looked by Aston Villa, Chelsea and Sunderland has caused Sparky to redefine the scale of his 'ambition.' Seems this is now to be gauged by his acumen in dragging Rangers out of the relegation zone, aided by £30 million pounds of Fernandes' money.
Refer to my light-hearted season preview and you will see I tipped QPR to suffer, but that mega money in January might just be enough to keep them afloat. Hughes now has to recruit half a new team and get them motoring from the get-go. Two wins from his first 10 Fulham games by the way for you Rangers fans, in case you'd forgotten. And are the likes of Samba going to trade one relegation dog-fight for another at a club with a smaller fan base than Rovers? As for attracting the likes of Drogba or Tevez...Tony, you're 'aving a laugh! We will all no doubt be watching their results with interest.
No Europa League ties to look forward to (sob) but still plenty to keep us entertained, bemused, perplexed, frustrated and ecstatic as we head through till May. Whatever 2012 brings you, go to sleep comforted by the knowledge you are blessed to follow and be part of the wonderful community that is Fulham FC. Twitter@fulhamphil