Michael Dawson – a tribute
Michael Dawson is a throwback. Not just in terms of his on-pitch style – courageous and uncompromising – but also his off-pitch demeanour. Even his haircut – a short back and sides, generally swept across his forehead – is reminiscent of the era in which footballers like Dawson came from; an era when money didn’t dictate everything from players’ ‘career planning’ to fans having to pick and choose which games they attended. The concept of ‘Category C’ didn’t exist then.
Dawson arrived at Tottenham Hotspur from Nottingham Forest, signed in a double deal with Republic of Ireland international, Andy Reid. As is seemingly so often the case in this type of deal (at least where Spurs are concerned), Dawson was seen by most as the makeweight or add-on in that deal, but his achievements and performances have gone on to far excel those of Reid, who left after eighteen months and is mostly remembered for being overweight. Nearly ten years later, Dawson is set to move on too.
It is sometimes the case that in this genre of article the author forgets to mention the bad, so I’m going to try to avoid falling into that trap. Dawson has become known for a slightly cumbersome style, ill-suited to the high line which Tottenham have played in recent times. He is, frankly, slow on the turn and has a tendency to get sucked into committing himself around the halfway line, leaving plenty of grass for attackers to run into.
He has had some horror-shows. Sergio Aguero has been the bane of his existence on more than one occasion, but particularly in the 5-1 home defeat at the start of the 2011/12 season. At that point Dawson was well regarded and was regularly in England squads, but Aguero made him look foolish; his low centre of gravity making Daws’ turning circle look larger than even his harshest critic could have described. He was involved in the heavy defeats to Manchester City (twice), Liverpool (twice) and Chelsea last season.
But it wasn’t just the elite players that occasionally brought out the worst in him; even before his 12th minute sending off against Fulham in a 4-0 defeat, he was having a real stinker. It occasionally happened, and we can’t ignore it. But these memories belie the truth that he has been a stalwart for the club for nearly a decade, and in that time there have been many, many positives for both individual and team.
He’s played over 300 times for Tottenham Hotspur. He played in the 1-0 victory at Manchester City that took us to the Champions League. He played in both matches against AC Milan in the Champions League, making a vital block from a Robinho effort late on at the San Siro. He played at Wembley in the League Cup defeat to Manchester United. The following season he was named Tottenham Hotspur ‘Player of the Year’.
The phrase ‘100% commitment’ is widely-used in football, but rarely has a player been so deserving of the tag. Dawson is a genuine trier, and us fans just love a trier.
His gentlemanly persona meant that he was able to build rapport with referees – if necessary, they would speak to him to ask him to calm his teammates down, or to explain a decision. He would question, yes, but generally without arm-waving, without ranting and without raving. Unlike so many others, he showed respect.
And that ignores all of the off-pitch add-ons that you get with a player of Dawson’s nature. Club captain. Fan favourite. Consummate professional. Gentlemen. Friendly face of the club. Charitable volunteer. Family man. Recently it emerged that he had sent a letter (or at least signed a letter) to a fan celebrating his 60th birthday. These gestures do not go unnoticed.
He will be remembered as much for his fist pumps, his smile, and his gentlemanly persona as he will for his goal-saving blocks, his brave headers, and his not-always-accurate cross-field passes. I for one have been very happy to have Michael Dawson represent us as captain – as the friendly face of Tottenham Hotspur.
Good luck, Michael Dawson – you will always receive warm applause from me if and when you return to White Hart Lane.