Clint Dempsey says he would never have left Fulham if the club had "valued and appreciated" him more. The American will return to Craven Cottage as a Tottenham player this Saturday following his rancorous summer departure from the club where he was fans' favourite for more than five years.
Dempsey's successful period at Fulham after joining from New England Revolution in 2007 ended amid acrimony in August when the player, for reasons he has never explained in detail, lobbied for a transfer. His determination to leave angered the Fulham fans as well as the manager, Martin Jol, who publicly rebuked the player's attitude and even mocked his situation as "embarrassing" when a proposed transfer to Liverpool fell through.
The forward eventually moved to Tottenham on the last day of the transfer window and claims the most significant factor in his decision to leave Fulham was a perceived lack of recognition from the club.
"The situation is a difficult one because things go on behind the scenes that the fans don't really know about," said Dempsey. "I'm not trying to open up that door to all those things that went on but the fans were great to me, the chairman was great to me and it got to the point where I wanted to keep going and try to further my career. If you always felt valued and appreciated enough, I don't think you'd ever leave but it came to a point for me where I didn't feel valued and appreciated, not by the fans but by other situations."
Dempsey knows he has been depicted as a disingenuous money-grabber and may, as a result, be booed by his former fans but says he has only warm feelings for the club.
"I thank them for the years I had there, some of the best experiences I've had and I'm grateful to the chairman for taking a chance on me. Any time I go back there will always be good memories. It's unfortunate how things happened in the end but you look forward to going back. How you're received, you're received. But no matter what, I'll always look back with good memories and be grateful for the club and fans."
Dempsey may not start the match because he has failed to recapture the form that persuaded Spurs to fork out £6m to liberate him from Fulham. He was substituted in the 63rd minute of Wednesday's win over Liverpool.
By contrast Mousa Dembélé seems certain to start against the club where he, too, enjoyed a successful spell. On Wednesday the Belgian made his first start for Tottenham after a seven-week, injury-enforced absence and again demonstrated how influential he has become at the club he joined just before Dempsey for £15m.
"He is very important to us," says the Tottenham manager, André Villas-Boas. "One of his major characteristics is his ability to turn over the opponent. He has developed a technique where he sustains the pressure of the opponent and rotates people very easily. That's why you can give him the ball under [pressure] and he always finds space. He is an extremely creative player. He sees the movements of players before others. He makes decisions that others cannot do."
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