And defender delighted to return with bang at Walsall
CRAIG Dawson believes his Olympic experience will stand him in good stead for the Barclays Premier League season ahead.
The Baggies defender helped Team GB reach the quarter-finals only to cruelly exit the competition in a penalty shootout with South Korea on Saturday.
But Dawson says it was an honour to represent Team GB and play alongside the likes of Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy.
And on his return to The Hawthorns he wasted little time in catching Steve Clarke’s attention by heading home the opener in Tuesday’s 3-1 pre-season win at Walsall.
“It was an amazing experience to be part of an Olympic Games, especially it being in London,” said Dawson.
“We were mainly away from the Olympic Village – but we did spend three nights there and we met several athletes from other countries.
“I’ve enjoyed working with Giggsy, Bellas, all the experienced pros and Stuart Pearce again.
“I think I’ve learnt a lot from them over four weeks.
“There was great support wherever we went and it was nice to get on the pitch and be a proper part of it.
“It’s been a little bit different to my usual pre-season.
“But it’s one hopefully I can take a lot from and bring it to the Albion.
“It’s been a good experience for me.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in the Olympics in Britain.
“It ranks up there with my best achievements and it was a great honour to be a part of it.”
Dawson also revealed how he ended up taking a spot-kick in the shootout with South Korea, which he comfortably converted.
“It was a tough, tough game against South Korea, we created a few chances but just couldn’t get the winner in the end and they were a good strong, organised team,” he added.
“On the night they played well against us – and when it goes to penalties it’s a lottery that can go either way, and unfortunately for Daniel Sturridge he missed.
“It’s just one of those things.
“The players selected to take the penalties goes off the records the staff have – and I was right up there on the list, so I was told I was taking one.
“We took them in training every day and they record the stats.
“I missed a couple but we did take quite a few.
“I just picked my spot and stayed with it.
“It was my first penalty and a big stage for it.
“It was nice to see it strike the back of the net – and then it was hard work watching on.”
Scoring against the Saddlers proved a painful experience for the 22-year-old as he crashed over the advertising boards and onto the concrete after heading home.
But he came away unscathed and is now hoping to push his claims for a first-team place in the top-flight.
“It was great to get 90 minutes under my belt against Walsall and the goal topped it off,” he said.
“I did take a bit of a battering in scoring after crashing over the advertising boards – but there was no damage done.
“And I’m just looking forward to getting some more game time and competing hard for a first-team place.”