HOBOKEN, NJ -- Reflecting on five years ago about his time as manager of Fulham, Wales national team manager Chris Coleman remembers when he took a chance on a 24-year-old American midfielder named Clint Dempsey.
A poor run of form ultimately cost Coleman his job three months after Dempsey's arrival at Craven Cottage but the 41-year-old coach continues to keep a track of his signing's progress in the Premier League.
Dempsey has scored 24 goals and added five assists in his past 65 league appearances for Fulham and Coleman believes that the Texas native's biggest area of improvement has been in his confidence level.
"He believes it now and he knows he has what it takes to play at that level," Coleman explained to Goal.com from the New York area, where Wales will play Mexico in a friendly on May 27.
With Dempsey at the peak of his career, Coleman agrees that his former player should examine his options. Dempsey is expected to seek a move to a bigger club during this summer and the former MLS star has made it no secret that he would like to play in the Champions League.
But Coleman assesses that Dempsey wouldn't be a good fit on a team in the top-five of the Premier League. He suggests that if the U.S. international wants to remain in England, he should look for an ambitious club outside of Champions League contention such as Newcastle or Liverpool.
"Yeah, for sure he could play on teams like that," Coleman said. "Fulham is a mid-table team and has been that way for almost the past 10 years. There are probably four teams that are bigger than Fulham that are outside of that top four or five [that would be a good fit]."
If a move materializes to a storied ground like a St. James' Park or Anfield, it would be a fitting reward for a player who has consistently worked hard, according to Coleman. Coleman remembers scouting Dempsey extensively prior to his arrival in January 2007. He traveled to America to watch Dempsey's Revolution play in Chicago and D.C. while taking notes.
"He had a real good appetite for football. A good hunger, he was brave. He wanted to take the ball all of the time," Coleman recalls. "As I remember, the team that he was playing with during the game wasn't doing very well but he always wanted the ball. That's bravery for me when players are like that. You could see that his technique and awareness were very good."
Coleman knew that Dempsey would need 6 to 12 months to fully adapt to the Premier League. For a team that was struggling, it was very risky to sign a player who wouldn't have an immediate impact. Yet, having worked with other Americans Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra, Coleman hoped that Dempsey would adopt the pairs work ethic.
"I have to say Brian McBride and Carlos Bocanegra, the three U.S. guys that came to Fulham, were fantastic on and off the pitch. Ambassadors, really," Coleman said. "They knew how to behave, how to speak with the media and they trained hard every day. Those three guys were a joy to work with."
As Dempsey continues to elevate his performances, Coleman is happy that his decision ultimately panned out. He knew Dempsey put it all together when he scored his famous otherworldly goal against Juventus to push Fulham ahead in the Europa League.
"When you can score goals like he did at Juventus, to even try that at that time of the game with the importance of it all, you have to have belief in yourself," Coleman said. "He executed it so well."