Club News

BOWLER’S DELIVERY: The waiting game

An audience with Craig Dawson

I had a rare audience with Craig Dawson earlier this week, the fruits of which you will find in the upcoming Stoke edition of Albion News – form an orderly queue for it now please. 
Craig himself would admit, I’m sure, that he is not the most willing of interviewees. A man who likes to keep himself to himself – he’s unlikely to set up a public Twitter account any time soon, much less found his own brand of anything – I suspect he finds all the media concentration on things away from the 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon to be not just a distraction, but pretty daft all told. If he can dispossess a winger or go on an overlapping run, what else does anybody need to know?
I can see his point but in a world where if you are not constantly pumping out self-publicity then people start to question your very existence, it means that you can fade into the background, be taken for granted, even overlooked.

OLYMPIAN: Dawson represents Team GB at London 2012
That would be a pity because quietly, Craig is building himself a significant Albion career as an important staple in our best side in a generation. Milestones do not tell the whole story, but he was an ever present last term and made his 100th Premier League appearance in recent weeks, stats which underlines the importance of his contribution to the cause, not least because he’s made the bulk of those appearances away from what he considers to be his natural berth, centre-half. 
I think we can all agree that Tony Pulis knows a defender when he sees one and pretty much as soon as he arrived at The Hawthorns, he installed Dawson in the first team, removing Andre Wisdom from the right-back slot. And, but for the odd game here and there, that is where he has stayed for two full years now, clocking up games with Fletcheresque regularity. 
His career thus far puts me in mind of Martyn Bennett in many ways, a young defender who emerged in the late 1970s, a clearly talented centre-half, but one who had to bide his time in the shadow of the monolithic pairing of John Wile and Alistair Robertson, much as Dawson has seen Gareth McAuley, Jonas Olsson and, latterly, Jonny Evans occupying the central roles.

ON TARGET: Dawson celebrates a pre-season goal at Bristol City
In those early years, Bennett was by no means a regular. He certainly didn’t accumulate the number of games that Craig has managed. But what he did while playing that waiting game was play in a number of roles. He played as a full-back on occasion, even took on the role of a midfield ball-winner when Ron Atkinson was looking to add a bit of steel to the side, all the time adding to his experience, seeing the game from different perspectives, accumulating footballing wisdom.
Dawson has done likewise, most notably at right-back, but with a few appearances on the other side to add to his experience. In recent weeks, he’s also played in a back three a couple of times when Albion have changed shape and then last Saturday, he was back in the middle as he and McAuley snuffed out Defoe and then the returning Anichebe. 
At 26, and just eight games away from the 250th senior appearance of his club career, Dawson is approaching the prime years of his career, a peak which, if twin brother McAuley is any guide, should go on for about another decade. Hopefully, he can enjoy all those years here.