Michael Dawson admits it will be a strange feeling when he lines up for Hull City against his former club Spurs at the KC Stadium on Sunday. Not simply because the centre-half was at White Hart Lane for the best part of 10 years, but because, by quirk of fate, he has never played against any former club.
“Not even for Richmond Town against Northallerton,” Dawson smiles, thinking back to his days growing up in the Yorkshire Dales. Having joined Nottingham Forest, simply because that was where older brother Andy began his own professional career, he moved to Spurs in 2005, but the two clubs were always in different divisions, and were not drawn against each other in a cup tie until September – a month after new Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino had made it clear to Dawson that, as the player tactfully phrases it: “I wasn’t going to play as much football as I’d like.”
Given that a win for Hull would lift them above Tottenham in the table, and worsen a Spurs’ defensive record of 16 goals already conceded in their first 11 league games, whether Pochettino made the right decision in letting Dawson depart ahead of the likes of, say, Younes Kaboul, is at least arguable. What is certain, however, is that Dawson takes no pleasure whatsoever in seeing his old club struggling. In fact, having played under six managers during his time at White Hart Lane, he believes the board needs to be patient with the new man.
“I certainly saw off a few. Martin Jol signed me, then Juande Ramos came in, and that was a hard time from the club’s point of view, and also personally, because I wasn’t playing as well as I could, along with a majority of the players.
“But then Harry [Redknapp] came in [in 2008], and the following season we had the Champions League run. In fact, we should have qualified again under him, but missed out because Chelsea qualified through winning it, which was incredibly unfortunate. For me Harry’s record spoke for itself. Managers need time.”
Dawson’s four England caps were all won during Redknapp’s period in charge at the Lane. An instinctively generous spirit, Dawson is quick to sing the praises of the competition, but if pressed will admit to a touch of disappointment at his lack of international opportunities.
“I’ve never doubted my ability in international terms, and I think playing over 300 games for a team like Spurs in the Premier League says something, so of course I would have liked to win more caps. I seemed to be in a lot of squads under Fabio Capello and then Steve McClaren, but great players like Ledley King, John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Jamie Carragher were ahead of me when it came to starting, and now Phil Jagielka and Gary Cahill. But I did go to the World Cup in South Africa, which was a brilliant experience, and got my four caps after that.”
If the sense his international time may now be past is unavoidable, Dawson is determined to prove the estimated £3.5m Hull paid to bring him back to Yorkshire represents outstanding value. Having only turned 31 this week, and with his first child just three weeks old, moving back north, he says, is all about starting afresh rather than winding down.
“I knew the gaffer [Hull manager Steve Bruce] had tried to sign me when he was at Sunderland and, after what Hull achieved last season, staying up and getting to the FA Cup final, and then seeing the new players they’d attracted. I also spoke to [former Spurs team-mates] Tom [Huddlestone] and Jake [Livermore], both about the gaffer and about the club, and they had nothing but positive things to say.
“But I’m also aware it’s going to be tough, and that the first priority is simply staying up. I wasn’t at [the 1-0 defeat] at Burnley, but it showed what will happen in this league when your performance level falls off.”
Bruce made his disgust at City’s efforts at Turf Moor abundantly clear, labelling some in the side “Big-time Charlies”, and there will be changes for Spurs. Dawson, fully recovered from an ankle ligament problem, will resume, and Hull will be further strengthened by the return of Nikita Jelavic up front alongside £10m Abel Hernandez.
Both will hope to exploit a Spurs defence that has kept only one clean sheet in its last nine Premier League games. Dawson would be delighted to score a first goal for his new club, but his priorities will lie at the other end of the pitch. “I don’t get many, so it would be great to score, but I have so much respect for Spurs, the club and the supporters, who were fantastic to me, in good times and bad. I’m looking forward to saying ‘Thanks’ properly – but I won’t be happy if we don’t take three points first.”
Michael Dawson was supporting PlayStation’s partnership with the English Schools’ FA. The football tournaments for secondary schools have attracted close to 2,000 entries and 100,000 participants to help nurture stars of the future: playstationschoolscup.comReuse content