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Fulham ties up more of its “young” talent

07 September 2010

OK, the headline is a bit of an inside-the-Premiership joke, as last season Fulham was considered one of the oldest teams in Europe and was the only side in the Prem without a starter under the age of 25.

That said, locking up defensive midfielder Dickson Etuhu through 2014 is a nice piece of business. Etuhu, who nominally is one of Fulham’s younger starters at 28 years of age (a huge number of the core Cottagers are around 29-30), really has improved in the last season or so and looks a lot more dynamic on both ends of the pitch this season. He’s formed a fine partnership with the aging Danny Murphy and scored a really composed equalizer in the dying minutes at Blackpool to salvage a point for Fulham in their last match.

"Hey, Clint. I just got a new deal. Enjoy the bench ... or Liverpool."

It again makes me wonder as a U.S. fan, though, about where Clint Dempsey fits in the whole pecking order at the Cottage. He’s on a recent contract extension through 2013, but it appears he’s been displaced from the regular starting XI by the arrival of Moussa Dembele and Mark Hughes’ preference for Damien Duff and Simon Davies to work the wings as a complement to the clever Zoltan Gera.

Dempsey made one start (vs. Manchester United) and was lifted for Dembele with about 30 minutes left. He also appeared as a sub in Fulham’s other two matches, so it’s not like he’s getting buried, but with a tantalizing option of a Dembele-Gera-Dempsey threesome working behind Bobby Zamora, it’s interesting that Hughes seems to see Dembele and Dempsey as interchangeable rather than a pairing.

Dempsey has a tendency to mope a bit at times, but his displeasure here would be understandable. He’s really earned his stripes on a couple of occasions with managerial changes at Fulham and now it appears he will have to battle his way into the good graces of a gaffer again. Maybe the international break, in which the U.S. didn’t play, will recharge Clint and fuel his appetite for the challenge. Or maybe we’ll hear a lot about “Dempsey to Liverpool” as we approach the winter transfer window in January.

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