Date: 12th October 2011 at 5:12pm
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It was the final day of Roberto Di Matteo`s 2010 summer transfer window when he swooped to sign highly rated youngster Craig Dawson.

It was the final day of Roberto Di Matteo`s 2010 summer transfer window when he swooped to sign highly rated youngster Craig Dawson. The centre half was sent back on loan immediately to the club from whom he was purchased, and he remained at Rochdale for the remainder of the season completing a second fantastic campaign in a row at Spotland. He is now included in the West Bromwich Albion squad for the forthcoming Premier League season, and shall be another big test for Dawson who has thus far in his career, passed them all with flying colours.

Given rave reviews by players and fans alike it was a blow to the League 1 side to lose such an influential player after two great seasons for the club. Making 87 league appearances for The Dale in those two seasons he became a regular immediately at the tender age of 19 after his first professional game, the 2009/2010 season opener at Port Vale.

West Bromwich Albion have also managed to sign a footballer who is no stranger to accolades and success. Enjoying promotion with Rochdale in his first season, their first promotion in an incredible 41 years, he also claimed FourFourTwo League Two Player of the Year, as well as being included in PFA League Two Team of the Year. That summer he arrived at The Hawthorns, but spent the following year back at Spotland helping Rochdale to a top half finish and narrowly missing out on a dream play-off position.

However what really stands out about the 21 year old Englishman is his phenomenal scoring record for a central defender. In his first season at Rochdale he broke the scoring record for a centre half at the club netting 11 goals in all competitions. Scoring 9 and 10 league goals in successive seasons Dawson comes with a reputation for posing a great aerial threat at both ends of the field, which makes him a good bet for first goalscorer if you`re a gambling man.

It`s not just at club level that Dawson is catching the eye. He`s recently forced himself in to Stuart Pearce`s England Under 21 setup, making quite a name for himself. Netting 3 goals in 4 games, whilst conceding only twice, Pearce has been very complimentary of the West Brom man. Dawson`s recent goal against Norway prompted his national manager to praise his bravery after he had seven stitches to his head after a clash in the 25th minute, but carried on playing bandaged to the final whistle.

‘He’s got great courage, he’s a man, is Dawson.’

He`s proved himself to his national coach, and to his endearing supporters, but his next challenge is to prove himself to Roy Hodgson and The Baggies faithful. Hodgson`s teams are notoriously well organised and tight at the back, the catalyst for his success in Europe and the Premier League during his time at Fulham.

When he took charge at The Hawthorns, Hodgson`s capabilities at getting sides to defend was bound to be tested by one of the leakiest defences in the league. Given a summer to work on it and the signs are there already that a lot of progress has been made. Dawson currently finds himself at 4th place in the pecking order, with Hodgson seemingly choosing Gareth McAuley or Gabriel Tamas to partner Jonas Olsson in defence.

Despite this Hodgson did hand Dawson his Premier League debut against Swansea in September. This was a result of Tamas` suspension and he was selected over McAuley to give him his top flight bow against a team who were without a win, or a goal, all season. The match ended in a 3-0 defeat, which didn`t necessarily highlight Dawson`s flaws, it was just a poor team performance on the day.

Regardless, for the remaining two games of Tamas` suspension it has been McAuley who has stepped in and played well with a no nonsense old style of defending which has proved effective. In a lot of ways he is a centre half in the Roy Hodgson mould.

From a fan`s perspective though, it has been a while since a young Englishman was to come through and establish himself in the first team. Admittedly Dawson is not a product of the Albion academy, but he is young enough and experienced enough to have a fruitful career in football, a career which many would like to see spent at West Bromwich Albion.

There`s plenty of the season left and with Albion desperately short of depth in his position, only 4 natural centre halves remain in the squad, it is likely his second chance will come and everyone is hoping this time he will really make it count.

One thing is for sure, next time I see Dawson on the team sheet I`ll certainly put a quid or two on for him to find the net, and I`m sure I won`t be the only one.

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