Pa­tient Daw­son’s in for the long haul

The Post’s For­est re­porter talks to the Reds’ vet­eran de­fender

Nottingham Post - - SPORT - PAUL TAY­LOR

WHEN he speaks to the me­dia, Michael Daw­son is a calm, com­posed fig­ure. He pro­jects an air of as­sured con­fi­dence.

And, when he talks about how he has had to be pa­tient as he awaited his chance at Not­ting­ham For­est, he al­most cer­tainly means ev­ery sin­gle word.

The vet­eran de­fender has been around long enough to un­der­stand that, for any team with pro­mo­tion as­pi­ra­tions, a squad with sig­nif­i­cant strength in depth is a pre­req­ui­site for suc­cess.

But, while he has been around the block long enough to know how to say all the right things, be­neath it all, you also get the sense the 34-yearold has been des­per­ate to get out there on the pitch, itch­ing to play his part.

He has of­ten been a whirl of ki­netic en­ergy in the dugout when he has been among the sub­sti­tutes; oc­ca­sion­ally even tak­ing on the role of un­of­fi­cial cheer­leader in the fi­nal mo­ments of games, head­ing ev­ery ball and mak­ing ev­ery clear­ance, from the touch­line.

But now Daw­son is back out there, where it all be­gan for him, on the City Ground pitch.

His re­turn to the side was, ini­tially short-lived, as he picked up an in­jury in the first half at Mid­dles­brough, fol­low­ing a less-thanfriendly chal­lenge from Ge­orge Friend that left him need­ing to be re­placed.

But Daw­son has since been in­volved against Bolton, Leeds (al­beit as a sub­sti­tute after Danny Fox was in­jured) and Sh­effield United, as For­est con­tin­ued their re­cent re­vival in the Cham­pi­onship.

And you get the im­pres­sion that he is lov­ing ev­ery minute.

“I have had to be pa­tient, along with many other play­ers. That is the size of the squad and you need that com­pe­ti­tion if you are go­ing to be suc­cess­ful and be a force in this league,” said Daw­son. “The man­ager and the own­ers have built a squad that they want to chal­lenge for pro­mo­tion.

“We are go­ing to have in­juries. Los­ing Foxy, who was mag­nif­i­cent and one of the best play­ers we have had in the team, through a nig­gle, will give some­body else an op­por­tu­nity.

“You have to take those op­por­tu­ni­ties and, when you win foot­ball matches, that will give the man­ager a headache.

“You see that we have a to­geth­er­ness in the group of play­ers. Every­one in the dress­ing room wants to play, of course. You want to be on that team sheet.

“But the man­ager can only pick 11 to start and 18 in the squad.”

Daw­son says it is the for­tunes of the team, rather than in­di­vid­u­als, that is most im­por­tant.

“We are all striv­ing for the same thing and that is to en­sure that, come the end of the sea­son, we are right up there and have a chance of pro­mo­tion,” he said. “You can­not do that sin­gle-hand­edly.

“You al­ways have to help the play­ers who are play­ing and you get on well off the field. We do have some good ban­ter and we have a great dress­ing room.

“One thing you have to do, when you have not been in­volved – which I have not been for pe­ri­ods of the sea­son – is train well and also stay fo­cused.

“And, when you are called upon, you have to do as well as the guy who was in your po­si­tion. When you get the op­por­tu­nity, you make sure that you take it.”

A win and a clean sheet against Sh­effield United last week­end lifted For­est back into the top six, ahead of the visit of Stoke City. But, while it feels as though there has been a change in mood fol­low­ing the re­cent up­turn in form, Daw­son is not get­ting car­ried away just yet.

And he says it is the play­ers’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure the mood re­mains pos­i­tive at the City Ground.

“We are just over a third of the way into the sea­son, there is an aw­ful lot of foot­ball still to go and we can­not get car­ried away,” he said. “We were down after the Bur­ton game, there is no hid­ing that. That is where, as foot­ballers, you need to be men­tally strong.

“But we get just un­der 30,000 peo­ple com­ing to the City Ground and these fans de­mand. They have high ex­pec­ta­tions. As play­ers, you have to go out and give that; to ful­fil that ex­pec­ta­tion. When you do that, when you per­form, you get the re­cep­tion you de­serve.

“The at­mos­phere was fan­tas­tic last week­end against Sh­effield United, when we were hold­ing on for the win. And when you do win, that feel­ing is fan­tas­tic. But it is a long old sea­son and we need to stick to­gether through the thick and the thin.”

For­est’s fans played a big role in that win over United, throw­ing their weight be­hind the team in the fi­nal stages, as the Blades looked for an equaliser.

“It is a two-way thing. Fans re­act to what is hap­pen­ing on the pitch and play­ers re­act to what is hap­pen­ing in the stands. When that place is rock­ing, it helps,” said Daw­son.

“I look at Leeds when we were 1-0 up and you were think­ing ‘wow.’ There was a point where we had a free-kick and you thought that, if we could get a goal, it would qui­eten them down (at El­land Road).

“But the at­mos­phere, when you are a home team, whether you are win­ning or los­ing, it makes a mas­sive dif­fer­ence. There is no hid­ing that.

“It is down to the play­ers to help gen­er­ate that mood off the pitch. But the fans can make a big dif­fer­ence. They have been fan­tas­tic for us this sea­son.

“It shows a real ex­pec­ta­tion and a real de­sire, when it comes to where we want to be. It has been a long time since we were in the Premier League.

“The at­mos­phere has been great. The fans turn up and have pride in their team. That all boils down to re­sults. We all know that is the in­dus­try we are in.

“When you are win­ning but per­haps not play­ing as well, it can cover things up. But the most im­por­tant thing is tak­ing three points.”

That will be the case again this week­end, against a Pot­ters side with pro­mo­tion as­pi­ra­tions of their own. Daw­son knows it will not be an easy game but, at the same time, he hopes to see For­est rise to the chal­lenge again.

“Stoke have some top play­ers. They were rel­e­gated from the Premier League last sea­son and it takes some time to set­tle in to the Cham­pi­onship. They have not had the start they would have wanted but nor are they a mil­lion miles away,” he said.

“The ta­ble can change as quick as

We are all striv­ing for the same thing... to en­sure that, come the end of the sea­son, we are right up there. Michael Daw­son

any­thing. You just need to re­main level headed and keep pick­ing up points along the way.

“Leeds was a game where we went 1-0 up and I thought they were the bet­ter team on the day. Equally, we were very hard done by over the de­ci­sion that hap­pened (the Ke­mar Roofe hand­ball goal).

“You dust your­selves down and you go again. That is foot­ball. You will have ups and downs through the sea­son and we know we will have more along the way yet.

“The main thing is to en­joy the highs and, when the lows come, you dust your­selves off and go again - you try to put things right.

“We had to do that last week. But when you have a level head, when you pro­duce per­for­mances, when you keep tick­ing along, it gives you a great chance.”

Michael Daw­son thanks For­est fans after the fi­nal whis­tle in the Cham­pi­onship match at Bolton last month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.