After his two-goal salvo against Newcastle, Gareth Bale inevitably stole the headlines, but further down the field another hero maintained a silently successful season. Michael Dawson is the antithesis of the modern footballer; you won’t find him stumbling out of a celebrity-endorsed nightspot or mocking opposing supporters, when the opportunity for ludicrous wages presented itself Dawson left his car keys by the door and chose to fight for his place.
The likeable defender’s Spurs career was inexplicably on the rocks in August. Uber-rich QPR had a bid accepted by Daniel Levy (ever the businessman when an over-the-odds offer is received), but unlike many of his peers Dawson turned his back on the money. Professional pride and ambition, and perhaps a love of Spurs, for once trumped the lure of multiple pound signs.
The majority of the Tottenham faithful were delighted by Dawson’s extended stay. There are few defenders better suited to an aerial bombardment against the likes of Stoke or Sunderland and Dawson’s cheerful and ever-gracious demeanour has always endeared him to fans of all ages. He’s also a bloody good defender.
But this season, in the face of intense competition and an initially sceptical new manager, Dawson has risen to the challenge and added new poise to his game. And his persistence has been rewarded. The outcast is now the Spurs captain redux.
In the under-the-radar, three-month run which has seen Tottenham lose only ONE league game (in injury time at Everton), Dawson has been a constant, seizing upon Younes Kaboul’s long-term injury, veteran William Gallas’ nagging fitness concerns and the greenness of emerging hope Steven Caulker. He has been the surprise star of Spurs’ revolving backline.
The stats stack up in Dawson’s favour. Spurs have yet to lose a Premier League game when he has started (7 wins 4 draws) and his record stands at 9-4-1 in the league games where he has featured - with the lone defeat as a sub in the 10-man loss at Arsenal which inexplicably kick-started the lilywhite season. Five goals have been conceded in Dawson’s last eight starts. Who needs a striker?
Dawson’s unheralded contribution illustrates how this over-achieving Spurs team is a sum of its parts. The phenomenal Bale is rightfully receiving plaudits as a world class player, but Aaron Lennon is in the form of his career, Hugo Lloris has been nothing short of cat-like between the sticks and Mousa Dembele has consigned the deft midfield promptings of Luka Modric to memory.
But for fine goalkeeping by Tim Krul and a touch of Bale profligacy, Tottenham’s latest victory would have been far more comfortable. Despite being haemorrhaged of midfielder enforcer Sandro, stalwart Kaboul and depth in the striker department due to Jermain Defoe’s injury and Emmanuel Adebayor’s absenteeism, Spurs have a four point cushion in fourth and are competing against limitless foreign billionaires and teams of more established pedigree.
And at the foundation of this success is the unsung Michael Dawson. The troubles of Loftus Road must seem a world away.