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FROM FURMAN TO FULHAM
Clint Dempsey Interview
Clint Dempsey's professional soccer career has taken him from the New England Revolution to the English Premier League's Fulham, where he is one of three US players with the club, alongside Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra. Starting out as a sports star at Furman university, Dempsey is now a key member of the US National team as an ‘attacking midfielder'. One year after helping the London side stay in the Premiership, they are again battling against relegation, and Clint — their leading scorer — has just signed on for two more seasons. Back in August, The American's Richard Gale had a chance to chat with Clint in anticipation of the 2007/2008 EPL season, and that interview appears here, online for the first time.
How was it, getting acclimatized? Did Brian and Carlos Bocanegra help you there?
CD: Yeah, it was cool, figuring out some places to go eat and all the stores to go to, to try and find some things that you can find back in America. It was good to have them around, that you were friends with, that you could talk to them.
Are you finding a difference in crowds between here and back in New England?
CD: Stadiums are more soccer–specific. You don't have only one side of the stadium filled up, you have a whole stadium that circles you. It's good to have packed stadiums instead of half empty ones and the fans are more passionate over here than over in the States. The States is starting to catch up, but the best fans are still here in Europe. Towards the end of the [2006–07] season, the fans really got behind us and supported us which helped us to stay up.
You're an ‘attacking midfielder'. Growing up, how did you see yourself — as a midfielder or as a forward?
CD: I just saw myself as a player who likes to get in attack and who likes to score goals. Whatever position allows me to do that, that's the position that I'm going to play. I do like to play attacking mid, but I don't mind playing up front and I don't mind playing out wide — so whatever it takes to get me on the field.
And that's the situation going into this year [with Fulham] ?
CD: And that's pretty much the situation with the National team and that was the situation with the Revolution as well, Always just playing different positions when they needed me to.
Where are you most recognized — here or the States?
CD: Neither. I'm off the radar. It's how I like it — I like to just go and play. You don't have to be worrying about things that are going on outside football. Its been an easy life. I don't think I could deal with what some of the players have to deal with. Here in London, we're not the biggest club, so its still possible to fly under the radar a little bit.
Was premiership the dream, or Europe generally?
CD: Europe generally, but as you get older you realise what's the best place to play, and for me that's always been the English Premier League and then [Spain's] La Liga, so either one of those would have been a dream move. And I got to make that move, now I'm here and now its about trying to do some while I'm here and make an impact and win things.
If the offer had come to play for a [second–tier] Championship League team would you still be over here?
CD: No, to be honest with you. I would have tried to wait and figure something else out. That's nothing to take away from the Championship, its just how I felt last year. You want to be challenged and be playing against the best and you look at the top leagues and top division. You don't want to go one down, but one up. That was a factor, to get in the most competitive environment.
You went to a good college at Furman. That's a different route from British players who usually drop out of education early.
CD: You never know what going to happen with injuries and stuff, and there's players who can still go to college and make it, and players who are on the U20 National team and did well in that World Cup and go to college, so you can still go to college and play at a high level.
If you hadn't gone to university do you think you'd have been here a couple of years earlier?
CD: Who's to say that if I'd come over here earlier, that I wouldn't have proven myself and could have fallen in the cracks. But now I'm here and it's about what I can do with the rest of my career, and I'm 24 so I'm still relatively young.
You enjoy the challenge of the next level — you went from Furman to the Revolution to Fulham — do you still have an eye on some of the higher profile European teams down the line, such as a Manchester United, Barcelona, or Real Madrid?
CD: That would be awesome. That would be ideal to play for the biggest clubs in the world, but you've got to take it one step at a time and take care of business — that's what allows you to get in those situations. And also help the current team you have to win something, So all you can do is try to do the most you can and win as much as you can where you are, and sometimes that leads you to bigger and better things.
Going back to the World Cup 2006 [where Clint was Team USA's only scorer]. There was a large amount of disappointment. Within the team was there disappointment or shock?
CD: There wasn't shock. The most disappointing thing was the first game, losing 3–0 [to the Czech Republic] — that should never have happened.
Going to the second game to tie the team that won the World Cup and really we almost went ahead, but they called (DeMarcus] Beasley's shot offside on McBride for interfering with the goalie. If they don't call that, we win that game.
Going into the last game, the objective was to have something to play for, and we did. And going against Ghana, if we win, we go through. We fought hard in the game and we came back and tied it, so things were looking good, and then to get a penalty kick called the way that we had against us — which wasn't, I don't feel, a penalty — puts you in a situation where you have to score two goals and you have a team that just sat back in the second half. Ghana was a great team, but I felt like we were put at a disadvantage. The only thing we can be really disappointed about is that the first game got away from us.
What was was the problem? Was it gameplan? Was it readiness?
CD: The situation with the first game — I had nothing I could do. I felt I played well in those [qualification] games; I scored against Poland, Japan, Venezuala — I felt like I could make an impact and then not to play at all the first game was a heartbreaker. I didn't know what was going to happen for the rest of the tournament, whether I was going to get in, so all I had was the games I got in and all you can do is lead by example. I have no regrets.
Since then, there's been success, winning the Gold Cup.
CD: That was the main goal, to go to the Gold Cup and win it, qualify for the Confederation Cup, hopefully qualify for the World Cup and then put ourselves in a situation to play quality games before the next World Cup year. It was good to get some time off after the Gold Cup.
Are you finding the game over here more physical than MLS?
CD: Due to the conditions of being wet there's a lot more slide tackles, so when you have those tacklers coming in at the pace that they're coming, I find it more physical over here because that adds to it. There's a lot of element of getting injured and getting stuck in.
Happy with a more physical game?
CD: Yeah I'm a physical person. I like challenging for 50/50 balls. I look forward to adding upon what I did last year, and trying and be more so, in the lineup as much as possible and score as much I can to help the team out.
Finally, what are your ambitions for the coming season with Fulham?
CD: Try and become a regular starter, try to score 10 goals, 5 assists, try to help the team win as many games as possible. I think you've always got to set goals and see how close you can come to accomplishing them.