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Posted by Phil Mison on 08/24/2012

Just like watching Brazil...but we're not talking about the team in the yellow shirts. The return of those black shorts meant the kharma and the Whites were back on song at the Cottage.

A thoroughly professional display got Fulham’s season underway as fans of the Canaries were left spitting feathers for the second time in five months. Nobody’s getting carried away after our five goal display – Norwich clearly hate playing at the Cottage, no win here since 1986, but my, did the Whites hit the ground running. There are nothing but positives to be taken from the performance as the side slipped seamlessly into top gear, raising their game after 20 minutes and then outplaying their opponents.

For the first time in three seasons we start the campaign under the same manager, and with no Europa League distractions. Jol was able to cast aside the shadow of Dempsey’s want-away stance and field an eleven who played as an inventive unit, looking utterly sharp and comfortable from front to back. Hard to grasp now, but on the last day of March the Canaries arrived at the Cottage above us in mid-table, and were pushing hard for an equaliser as Fulham clung on to the final whistle that afternoon after early strikes from Clint and Damien.

This time around the gulf between the teams was massive. Hughton admitted his side were poor, but Fulham were also very, very good – and could easily have had more. Testament to the shrewd work put in early summer to tie up deals for Diarra and Rodallega. Securing the first means midfield will not miss Danny, while Hugo is a free transfer striker who has shown he can score goals in the Prem for a poor side. How much more of a return will we see over the coming season from him playing with better players in support. And when Pavel opted for life in Reading rather than Chelsea Wharf …money isn’t everything comrade, Jol went shopping on the cheap for another striker he knew well. Mladan Petric made a dream debut, looking comfortable with the system, and certainly more mobile than Pogrebnyak. The gaffer says he’s not even up to full fitness yet, so if he can last the pace of the Prem our Croat could well turn out to be one of the top acquisitions of the summer.

The club are also still sitting on funds for additional players in the window should the right names come along. It seems Trotta will be heading out on loan again, so there is clearly the need to find a support striker, especially if all parties manage to find a deal that suits Clint. How much are we going to miss him? Well, I’m still not convinced the door has been slammed shut on the Texan, even though he’s again been left out of the squad for the trip Saturday to some small outfit in the North.

There will be plenty of games in the next 37 when things are not running Fulham’s way. Clint’s ability, shown most notably in the 82nd minute of THAT match v Juventus, has been to pop up with something at times off the wall to conjure a goal out of nothing, many of them brave headers in the box. We are going to miss that, yes. But our talent pool at present is such that we certainly won’t struggle with him gone. And, from his perspective, where exactly does Clint Dempsey go from here?

His agents must I’m sure have mobiles permanently clamped to their ears - yesterday they were too busy to respond to my call. When it comes to delivering up the holy grail of Champions League football Clint, has it escaped your attention that neither Liverpool or Sunderland have even a faint chance of making that competition in the next five years. Both are distinctly average clubs with American backers fearful of throwing away any more bucks for very little return. Fulham maintain there have been no concrete offers at all for Dempsey's services, while there are clear signs both Liverpool and Sunderland are commiting money elsewhere. So who loves ya baby?

I also sense Brendan Rogers is going to come under real pressure pretty quickly, and Liverpool might not be the ‘work in progress’ ideal unit for any big player right now. As to what Mrs. Dempsey thinks about moving north with the kids…

So bidders for our Texan star are going to have to come from abroad. That means even more disruption to family life. And how many big European sides are set up to accommodate the maverick that is Clint? Every Fulham manager since Coleman has needed convincing – sure Clint has buckled down every time and shown his worth. He’s as tough as old boots we know. But age is against him, and I certainly don’t see him fitting into a latin team, so his options narrow even further. We’ll know this time next week. Another winless weekend for Arsenal might push Wenger into a bid, but it will have to match Fulham’s valuation.

With the stance Dempsey has taken, and by missing first the Norwich game, and now ManUre, every day passing makes it harder you feel for some accommodation to be reached before bad blood sets in. Clint still has a chance to shrug, take a step back, and say, ‘well, let’s get back to playing football,’ and all will be forgiven. But it’s now or never. I tell you this, if Fulham go to Old Trafford and win – and there’s a real chance we can – my, but there’ll need to be some hard thinking done in the Dempsey household over the weekend. FFC in the Champions League next season?

OK, some way to go yet before we start down that train of thought. But what did we learn from day one? Not quite as terminal as Liverpool’s malaise maybe but Arsenal are no longer a force in English football. They will do well to make the top four, but any talk of the title is risible. Why Wenger is treated so shabbily by a board awash with personal cash is beyond me. I would hate to be a Gooner right now. This is not ‘fan bashing’ barbarity on my part. I think Wenger is a superb manager and talent spotter, I loved the football played by Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and would have taken them as my second team in London after FFC. Today’s Gunners look ordinary, and without van Persie…

Chelsea likewise to my eye appear no stronger than last season. We got two draws off the European Champions last time and looked their equals. Only more reffing incompetence denied us a home win over the Blues. I thought Tottenham looked predictable and somewhat toothless in defeat at Newcastle, who themselves will have a European campaign to add to their work load. The Magpies will remain dangerous with Ba, Cisse and Ben Arfa up front, but won’t fly as high as last year. And look what we did to them at the Cottage in January!

Everton. Hmm, I just don’t know how they keep doing it each year. Too good for United this week, and of course we have not a clue how to beat them either. The two Manchester clubs will again contest the title, and I personally don’t care which one ends up ‘buying’ the trophy. But could little old Fulham down by the Thames just sneak up on the playground bullies and steal some of their conkers over the course of the next nine months…? I think we may be in for a season of fun. Clint, listen to the love man, and DO THE RIGHT THING.
Twitter@fulhamphil

Comments

Posted by fraught_with_peril on 08/24/2012

Phil,

Great column. You're in mid-season form already after the well-deserved summer break.

I agree with you. That makeshift ManU back line is there for the taking tomorrow.

As for Clint: I think our musically-inclined talisman spent too much time this summer listening to the Carly Rae Jepsen hit "Call Me Maybe".

The real question is, if he decides to reconcile, does he sign the contract extension at a 75% weekly increase with three years of guaranteed economics? Or does he play on the old contract -- and take injury risk -- with guaranteed economics of only about 15% of the new contract total?

I think this is the consideration that has kept him out of action. I genuinely believe in his heart of hearts that he has too much tenacity to let down his employer, teammates, supporters and own signature absent this stark financial contrast.

As you point out, we'll know in another week.

COYW !!!

Posted by Bobert on 08/26/2012

Huh? Wha? You guys are aware this is CLINT DEMPSEY we're talking about right? The same man who despite possessing the quality had constantly been initially over looked by the last three or four managers Fulham has had. He's buckled down, put in massive efforts, sacrificed his body- often times sporting a black eye, saved the club from relegation, and scored the goals/created the plays when Fulham have needed it most. He did this loyally for five years and has even said the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

All he's asking is for the opportunity to continue doing what he's always done; to continue to push himself against the elite and at this juncture that's Champions league.

This isn't about money or loyalty but more so a drive to continue to be the best. Any bad blood or ill feelings from Fulham are completely unwarranted. I sincerely hopes he gets what he truly wants. Any Fulham fan knows he deserves it.

Posted by Jessica on 08/27/2012

Bobert- I totally agree with you in that Clint should be given every opportunity to do what he wants- he's totally earned that. However, when no one comes calling, it's time to reassess. It seems the organization has been more than willing to work with him to get a deal done- understanding they won't give him away for free- but this should have been settled months ago. And when it wasn't, it's time to put back on the shirt and get to work. He is by far my favorite player- for all that brings to the table and his incredible work ethic- and I wish him and his family all the best. But I think there was some miscommunication to say the least, and now it's time to play.

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