The career of a professional football player can follow many different paths. Some players are found as teenagers and receive pages and pages of media hype till they sign their first professional contract. Players like Didier Drogba and Diego Milito reached their peak in their mid to late-twenties respectively. Some rise through the ranks of their team while putting in years of top class performances à la Paul Scholes.
Michael Dawson represents an entirely different path. The unheralded defender signed his first professional contract with Nottingham Forest in late 2000 making his debut the next year and forming a formidable partnership with Des Walker the year after that. With the strong defensive pairing of Dawson and Walker, Nottingham was nearly promoted in the 2002-03 season. A bout with glandular fever limited his performances the next season and as Dawson’s Nottingham Forest career came to a close a club from North London arrived in January of 2005.
Tottenham signed the English defender in a package deal with winger Andy Reid for an estimated £8million. The club had gone through a difficult time from 2003-2005 going through four different managers even sacking club legend Glenn Hoddle. Martin Jol was named the manager from November 8, 2004 and his first bit of business as the new gaffer of Tottenham Hotspur was bringing in Mido on loan and the aforementioned duo from Nottingham Forest. Michael Dawson slotted into Jol’s lineup replacing the aging Nourddine Naybet and joining in a partnership with club legend and current club ambassador Ledley King. The two became a formidable center back pairing and developed an off the field friendship. During this time Michael Dawson became a fan favorite for his tactical nous, aerial ability, and intensity. From 2005 to 2007 saw Tottenham finish in the fifth position before Martin Jol was replaced by Juande Ramos and the team slid to a mid-table finish. Juande Ramos brought in former Leeds United and Real Madrid defender Jonathan Woodgate, French import Younes Kaboul and Sebastien Bassong from Newcastle United. The purchase of three new central defenders brought uneasiness to the center back pairing and King due to injuries and Dawson due to losing favor began to be featured less in the Starting XI and Tottenham suffered. “Daws” as he had affectionately been named by the Tottenham faithful at 25 years old maintained a high level of professionalism as he sat on the bench during much of the 2008-09 season. He had served White Hart Lane for the past three years clearing long balls and making game saving blocks but like many things football is not fair and Dawson found himself warming the bench.
Then came the end of Juande Ramos and the quintessential English Bulldog Harry Redknapp took over in the middle of the 2008-09 season. The next year would become Michael Dawson’s most successful season as well as Spurs’ as the team achieved Champions League football and a fourth league position. During the 2009-10 season, Michael Dawson appeared in forty games earning only four yellow cards and scoring two goals. The 2010-11 season was more of the same for Tottenham and Michael Dawson as they reached the quarter- finals of the UEFA Champions League before being knocked out by Real Madrid. However like anything in Michael Dawson’s career, years of success would be changed by one moment. Tottenham had a fifth-round replay against Stevange in the FA Cup, they won the game but Dawson ruptured his ankle ligament ending his 2011-12 season early and putting his club and international future in doubt.
In July 2012, Tottenham surprised the footballing world with the signing of former rival manager Andre Villas Boas. Dawson made a recovery from his ankle injury but he was already on the fringes of the team yet Andre Villas Boas made the confusing decision of naming him club captain. During the summer transfer window Michael Dawson was rumored to be headed down to Loftus Road for 9 million euros with a deal completed between the clubs. “Daws” refused the move and instead declared his intention to prove his worth to Andre Villas Boas and earn his spot in the Starting XI again.
For the first half of the 2012-13 season Dawson found his first team opportunities limited. Villas Boas tried out different combinations involving William Gallas, Steven Caulker, and new signing Jan Vertonghen. Tottenham’s defense was appallingly poor during this time with blame mainly being placed on the former Arsenal man William Gallas. Finally Andre Villas Boas settled on a back pair of Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen. The defensive duo solidified Tottenham’s back four and nearly proved the catalyst for a top four finish. Michael Dawson returned to his 2009-10 form and quickly formed a working relationship with standout defender Jan Vertonghen. The pair harkened back to some years before when King and Dawson were the center-halves. Dawson was now playing the part of Ledley King the aging but still consummate professional and Vertonghen the young outstanding center back like Dawson had been as a Nottingham singing. Michael Dawson put in man of the match performances in Manchester United’s snowy draw at White Hart Lane, the huge Arsenal win, and against now- relegated Reading. With Scott Parker out with injury for much of the year Michael Dawson assumed the vocal leadership role barking orders at his back four making sure they played their high line properly. As disappointing as the 2012-13 season ended, Michael Dawson the fan’s man in the defense had became indispensable.
As Andre Villas Boas and Tottenham look towards the 2013-14 season, some fans have called for the return of Younes Kaboul to the Starting XI or the transfer of Toby Alderweireld from Ajax to replace Michael Dawson. “Daws” would not have it any other way, the man who made 22 clearances in the 2-1 win against Arsenal will have to earn his spot in the Starting XI. Consistency in the two center-halves is a must and Dawson should retain his position alongside Jan Vertonghen. These two defenders complement each other’s playing style and form a pair that could challenge for that coveted Champions League spot. While he may never score an amazing goal or dribble past opposing defenders Michael Dawson has been a faithful servant to Tottenham Hotspur and his leadership quality, loyalty, heading and clearing ability, and his genuine nature should never be taken for granted.
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