As Tottenham Hotspur prepare to tackle unfavourable odds, they can take inspiration from the story of their captain's season. Michael Dawson could have joined Queen's Park Rangers last summer, but chose to stay at Tottenham and now has the chance to help the club into their first European semi-final for 29 years.
After last week's 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane, it is likely that Spurs will have to beat FC Basel to progress to the last four. It will be difficult, especially without the injured Gareth Bale, but it appears relatively simple when compared to the task which Dawson faced last summer.
The England international began the campaign as Spurs' fifth-choice centre-back. He looked like he was on his way out but decided to fight for his place, and a serious injury to Younes Kaboul improved his chances of playing. Dawson forced his way back into Andre Villas-Boas's plans and now, along with Jan Vertonghen, he is his club's most important defender.
"It's amazing where a bit of hard work can get you," he said. "The manager saw that and gave me a chance. I went out and performed, and so did the team. It makes a big difference when you are in a winning team.
"When you are struggling, not in the team, losing matches and trying to find form, you need to stay mentally strong. Sometimes it isn't easy, but you have to keep believing. You have to keep performing because things can turn around quickly. Would I have stayed had Kaboul not been injured? Who's got a crystal ball, but I have been here eight years and I have never given a thought to leaving.
"The attitude is down to professional pride. When I worked with [manager] Paul Hart at Nottingham Forest, he never let standards drop in training. You learn that discipline at a young age and it's stuck with me."
Spurs will need such strength of mind at St Jakob-Park. While their away form in the Premier League has been good, they have yet to win on the road in Europe this season. The absence of Bale and Aaron Lennon will make opening the Basel defence more difficult, and the Swiss side have not conceded a goal here in their last four Europa League matches.
Tottenham are also wobbling in the league; they have won just one of their last four fixtures. But Villas-Boas says he will accept no excuses for failure – even though injuries have persuaded him to travel with untried youngsters Shaq Coulthirst, Cristian Ceballos and Milos Veljkovic
"The absence of Bale, Lennon and Jermain Defoe is something that might give the advantage to Basel but it will never been an excuse for us," said the head coach. "We must strive forward just the same. We have great players and we have belief in them and we go into the game with ambition."Reuse content