The last time Clint Dempsey pulled on a Fulham kit at Craven Cottage, he scored the last of his 17 goals in the 2011-12 Premier League season in a 2-1 win over Sunderland.
Now, the Sounders FC forward is returning to London on a two-month loan to Fulham, in large part to help the U.S. National Team captain prepare for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. There’s no better way to find his top form than to return to where he emerged as a top-flight player.
“I had a great time here and some of the best years of my football have been playing for this club. That’s why I was excited about coming back here,” Dempsey said in an interview on FulhamFC.com. “It’s like home to me and I hope that I can help out and keep this club in the Premier League.”
Dempsey played six seasons at Fulham from 2006-2012, finishing with 50 goals in 184 league matches before transferring to Tottenham Hotspur in August of 2012. After one year with Tottenham, he made the move back to MLS and Sounders FC.
The three-time U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year earned Player of the Season honors at Fulham in his final two seasons and was fourth in voting for the Premiership Player of the Season in 2011-12 when he tallied 17 goals in 37 matches. This after scoring 12 goals in 37 matches in the 2010-11 season.
Fulham is currently mired in 19th place in the 20-team Premier League at 4-12-1, but just one point away from avoiding the relegation zone, as they did in his first year with the club when his goal against Liverpool in May secured a spot in the top flight.
“This is a club that’s always had that - when times are tough, I think people come together and they fight for each other. They’ve been in tough situations before and they’ve gotten out. I don’t think this time will be any different,” Dempsey said. “I think the boys will stick together and do what it takes to climb up the table as fast as they can.”
In January and February, Fulham plays eight league matches, starting with a January 1 match against West Ham United at Craven Cottage. In that time, Fulham will also face Sunderland, Southampton and Liverpool at home with road matches against Arsenal, Swansea City, Manchester United and West Brom.
Helping his former club stay in the top flight is one goal, but preparing for the World Cup is the biggest target for the 30-year-old Dempsey.
“I wanted to get back to playing at the highest level, get back to top form, getting back and helping the team in a situation where they’re not where they want to be in the table,” he said. “Going into a World Cup year, you want to get to that top form and carry that forward so hopefully you can have a good showing.”
Dempsey is slated to return prior to Sounders FC’s season opening match against Sporting Kansas City on March 8 at CenturyLink Field.