A player returning to their former club is always going to be a cautionary one. Any star that departed Tottenham Hotspur before making the trip to White Hart Lane has received a response depending on the way they exited the North London side.
Sol Campbell, for example, will never be accepted at the home of Spurs due to the way he left the club for Arsenal all those years ago. Rafael van der Vaart on the other hand will forever be on the receiving end of a rapturous applause, such was his stature in North London and the way he endeared himself to the supporters during his two year stint in North London.
Judging from the reaction for the two aforementioned stars, you can expect a mixed response for both Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembélé when Spurs make the short trip across to West London to take on Fulham this afternoon.
Both players departed the Cottagers under contrasting circumstances for Spurs over the summer. Dempsey refused to train with the first-team in order to secure an exit from Craven Cottage, while Dembélé was long linked with a move away from the club following an impressive start to the campaign.
The difference in reception will be evident on the afternoon. Fans hold grudges and rarely forget what their former players have done in the past. You only have to think back to the welcome supporters gave Campbell upon the defender’s first game at White Hart Lane since his switch across North London in 2001 and the years since to remember that players leave a lasting impression at a club.
Fulham fans are likely to make their feelings known, especially when Dempsey’s name is called in the pre-match line-ups. The American spent five-and-a-half years at Craven Cottage, with his final year at the club proving his most prolific, having netted 23 times in 46 appearances in all competitions.
On top of that, every touch is likely to be greeted by a chorus of jeers from the home fans. The 29-year-old may’ve claimed he felt undervalued and underappreciated at Fulham, but his words are likely to fall on deaf ears of fans of the West London outfit.
The same cannot be said of Dembélé, should he play, and he is likely to receive a warmer reception from the Fulham faithful. It’s never easy seeing a star player depart to a fellow Premiership rival, but the Belgian didn’t act in a similar fashion as Dempsey to secure his exit from Craven Cottage.
The 25-year-old gave two impressive years of service to the Cottagers following his arrival from AZ Alkmaar back in 2010 and while it will be difficult to see him play again for a different team, chances are he’ll be welcomed back to West London much like Van der Vaart would be at White Hart Lane.
Nevertheless, it is vital that both players take to the field from the off at Craven Cottage this afternoon. Without Dembélé, Spurs look poorer heading forward, as witnessed during the 2-1 win over Liverpool.
Meanwhile, with Brede Hangeland suspended, it is important the Dempsey continues his role behind the striker. Jermain Defoe looked isolated at times against Liverpool against Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger on Wednesday and with the Norwegian sidelined; the physical presence of the 29-year-old will cause the Fulham backline problems if Spurs are to come away from Craven Cottage with all three points.