MAIN INTERVIEW - EVERTON PROGRAMME - Wednesday, January 11
Return of the Daws
Michael Dawson has already missed four months of this thrilling season through injury, but now he’s back and ready for a slice of the action. By Jon Rayner.
Another sell-out crowd at White Hart Lane on Saturday was treated to a comfortable victory over Cheltenham Town in the third round of the FA Cup – but perhaps the most enjoyable sight of the afternoon was seeing Michael Dawson back in action.
Our popular England international returned to the fold having spent the last four months recovering from an Achilles injury picked up in the week ahead of our trip to Wolves in early September. Having featured in our opening four games – the two Europa League play-off matches against Hearts and our Premier League fixtures against Manchester United and Manchester City - Daws was just settling down for another extended run in the side when fate dealt him a real blow.
While the lads went on that wonderful 11-game unbeaten run and recorded six straight wins along the way, Michael could only sit and watch from the sidelines, desperate to get back out there and play his part.
Finally though, after four tough months of rehabilitation, fitness work and real determination, Daws pulled on our famous white shirt once again four days ago. He came through 88 minutes unscathed before making way as a late withdrawal for substitute Tom Carroll and admits it felt good to be back.
“Of course, it was a big relief to get back out there playing again and getting almost 90 minutes under my belt,” said Daws. “I certainly did enjoy it after being so long in the treatment room. Four months in the gym is not what you want to be doing, it’s frustrating and if you ask any footballer they will all tell you the same thing.
“It’s not nice, but that’s football. Still, when you do get back out there playing again it’s a great reward for that hard work. It’s always fantastic to play here, there’s no better feeling than walking out at White Hart Lane and I felt good afterwards. The adrenalin gets you through it as well, so to come through the game as I did and to get the win meant it was a good afternoon all round.”
As previously mentioned, Daws has certainly been out injured at an inopportune time as our football this season has thrilled not just Spurs supporters but football followers up and down the land too. However, the timing of his comeback is particularly significant, coming as it has done just as one or two other players have sustained injury, demonstrating the value of having such strength in depth.
“The lads have been unbelievable while I’ve been out, they have played so well and are flying,” he said. “Full credit to them, they’ve earned the right to be where we are in the league and long may it continue.
“It’s a squad game and all of them have played their part. Younes has been superb this season, Ledley has shown he is real class when he’s played, William and Seb have come in and done well. Everyone has to take credit.
“But now we’ve got the likes of William and Sandro out for a bit, Scott missed a couple of matches, Ledley too, so others will have to come in. But we know we’ve got a strong squad. The manager made 10 changes on Saturday and yet look at the quality we had on the pitch against Cheltenham – virtually every one of them was an international and they all performed really well,” added Daws, who admits that he will have to work hard to force his way back into the side.
“Of course, I have always been like that, I was out for three months last year but worked hard and went on to play a lot of games,” he said. “It’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last because unfortunately injuries are part and parcel of football.
“But when you come back into it, you need to go out there and perform to the best of your abilities, do as well as you can and hope to get back in the side.
“As I said though, it was good to get through Saturday, now I’ll get back to training and hopefully I’ll be in the manager’s thoughts now for the rest of the season.”
If Daws could have picked his own game in which to return to action, he probably would have opted for a home FA Cup tie against lower league opposition, as part of a team which included the likes of Jermain Defoe, Niko Kranjcar, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Aaron Lennon – also playing his first game after injury.
No disrespect to Cheltenham, but the quality in the Spurs line-up on Saturday meant a fairly comfortable afternoon for Michael and his fellow defenders as the game predominantly revolved around our attacking players breaking down the Robins defence.
“We knew they would come and get behind the ball, it happens quite a lot here at the Lane these days. We had a lot of possession all game and to be fair to Cheltenham, when we lost it in the final third they broke and caused us a few problems, but I thought we did a professional job and got the win we needed.
“I thought Niko and Steven Pienaar were fantastic in front of me today, while Jake had 18 stitches in his lip, yet came in and did a job at right-back for us. That’s what I mean about the squad here.
“For Cheltenham, to come to White Hart Lane in the FA Cup third round was like a cup final for them. Their fans sold out their allocation behind the goal, they had a great following and it made for a cracking atmosphere. For the first 20 minutes we found it hard to break them down, but once we got the first goal that made the job a lot easier."
And it was a goal scored by Defoe as he showed typical predatory instincts to tap home from less than a yard out after Giovani had broken free down the left and lifted the ball goalwards over Cheltenham keeper Steve Brown. It certainly caused some amusement in the dressing room after the game, as Michael explained.
“Gio was joking in the ice bath afterwards saying he couldn’t believe it! But JD can’t help himself, that’s why he’s a top goalscorer to be fair to him, I’m just glad he wasn’t offside otherwise there really would have been trouble,” laughed Daws. “But Gio got his goal in the end and he fully deserved it, he was excellent on the day.”
This evening it’s back to the bread and butter of the Barclays Premier League as Everton arrive in N17 for our re-arranged game, following the troubles in Tottenham in the lead-up to the opening day of the season in August.
It’s our game in hand on all the sides around us and could see us draw level on points with second-placed Manchester United, should we beat David Moyes’ team.
“The lads have been amazing, there’s been no stopping them since those first two matches,” said Daws. “You have to earn the right to be where we are in the table, we’re third because we deserve to be there. There’s a lot still to play for this season and long may that continue. I’m just looking forward to being a part of it again.
“Obviously Everton won’t make it easy this evening, we always have tough games against them whether it’s here or at Goodison, but we’re confident of getting a result tonight.”