From The Dog & Partridge to the Premier League
THE man who told Craig Dawson to swap bar work for ball work today saluted the Albion man's new deal.
Dawson, who this week signed a three-year deal, was a 17-year-old glass collector at The Dog & Partridge boozer in Rochdale, content with kickabouts with his pals, when a famous name connected with the northern comedy scene came calling.
Bernard Manning (junior) is the son of the late comic of the same name.
And when Bernard, chairman of Northern Premier League club Radcliffe Borough, spotted Dawson's ability, he knew he simply had to rescue him from the local hostelry.
Bernard explained the story: "I was his first chairman but I'd known Craig for a long, long time because he's good friends with my son Ben.
"Craig stood out. I was quite puzzled why more clubs wouldn't take a chance on him. He was a very shy lad, quite unassuming and it was clear to me that he preferred playing football with his mates.
"We 'bullied' him into coming to Radcliffe Borough. Craig was 16 or 17 playing with his pals and working in the Dog and Partridge, and I said 'Craig, what are you doing collecting glasses in the local pub? You can do better than this...come down to Radcliffe and give it a try'.
"He used to say 'do you really think I am good enough?'. I had to pretty much throw him in the back of the car to get him to training at Radcliffe."
Bernard continued: "He did some pre-season and we put him into a friendly against Salford City. I told our manager Kevin Glendon at the time that this guy could play a bit. Craig then put this crunching challenge in, won the ball and I could see Kevin giving me this look from the corner of his eye that said 'wow'. It was all
upwards from there."
Dawson joined Albion in 2010 and has started all six Premier League games this season.
Bernard believes the player thrives on encouragement.
"I honestly thought Craig would make a really good living in football," he added.
"I wasn't sure what level he would reach but I knew he could.
"The thing with Craig is that he prospers when people believe in him. He's not the kind of lad to get carried away.
"I am waiting for the day he scores the winner against Manchester United - as I'm a big Man City fan and I know Craig followed United!
"I'm bursting with pride at how well he's doing but it's all been of his own doing."