Jol turns to defending Dempsey
Soccer:Martin Jol criticised the Fulham fans who mocked the absent Clint Dempsey during today’s 5-0 hammering of Norwich. Dempsey, who scored 23 goals last term, did not feature in today’s game after he refused to play for Fulham in the hope that it would accelerate a transfer to Liverpool.
The Cottagers coped admirably without him as they ruined Chris Hughton’s first game in charge of Norwich by recording a 5-0 thrashing courtesy of goals from Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell, Alex Kacaniklic and double from debutant Mladen Petric.
The home fans greeted Fulham’s fifth strike — a fierce penalty from Sidwell — by chanting ‘Are you watching Clint Dempsey?‘, clearly delighted they had proven they can easily do without the American’s services. But Jol, whose team sit top of the embryonic Barclays Premier League, feels the 29-year-old deserves more respect from the fans despite his recent rebellion.
“I don’t want to hear the fans were chanting against him because he was a terrific player for us,” Jol told a press conference. “He was the most productive midfield player in the whole league last season.”
Jol launched a furious attack on Liverpool yesterday for failing to follow up their initial interest in Dempsey with a firm bid for the player.
The Dutchman said yesterday that it was “impossible” for Dempsey to remain at Craven Cottage, but he now seems open to the possibility of the midfielder staying.
“Hopefully he will play for us again,” the Fulham boss added. “There is one season to go (on his contract) and no one has come in for him. To say he refused to play is probably a bit harsh but he wanted to move and if you want to move, you don’t want to take risks so you don’t want to play in case you get an injury. So for me that was a very awkward situation and it was for him as well.
“There is nothing on the table from Liverpool. Maybe Clint knows more than us but we feel he should stay if there is no other bid.”
Hughton was hoping to score a victory against his former mentor, but his Norwich side looked a shadow of the team that finished 12th under Paul Lambert last season.
Fulham, on the other hand, played out of their skin. Duff controlled an excellent pass from John Arne Riise to put the home side ahead after 25 minutes before Petric added two more goals either side of half-time.
The Croatian then played a superb backheel to Alex Kacaniklic for Fulham’s fourth and Sidwell blasted home a spot-kick in the dying minutes after Michael Turner’s awful foul on Hugo Rodallega in the Norwich box.
Kacaniklic, starting just his third league game, received praise from Jol for slotting in to the team in Dempsey’s place.
“I thought we did well on the left. It was not easy to follow in the footsteps of Clint Dempsey but luckily enough (Kacaniklic) did well,” Jol said. “We did well. We let the ball do the work and we were very good to watch.”
Hughton, who worked under Jol as a coach at Tottenham, admitted that his first top-flight game in 20 months could not have gone worse.
“It was an awful day for us,” Hughton said. "That’s not how you want your first game of the season to go. Four of the goals were avoidable. In pre-season we have looked very solid in defence. I had no inkling this would happen."
Hughton is confident that his men will bounce back from the thrashing, however.
“The players are hurting,” the former Birmingham manager said. “This won’t be the only defeat that we will have and it won’t be the only defeat that we will have by a few goals, but the players will want to react well. They know this wasn’t acceptable today and they want to make amends.”