Saturday, September 04, 2010

Michael Dawson’s Wembley Jinx Continues

Michael Dawson's Wembley Injury (from
In the past playing at Wembley Stadium was often regarded as the pinnacle of a footballer's career when the only opportunity to tread the hallowed turf came through a Cup Final appearance or an international match. However, in this modern era there are so many games at the stadium - internationals, FA Cup semi-final and finals, League Cup finals, the Community Shield, Football League play-offs, random minor Cup finals and even pre-season tournaments, that to make an appearance there is not so highly regarded and for the top players it is common place.

However, for Michael Dawson, Tottenham's Player of the Year for last season, the new Wembley experience must be something of a disappointment. Over the past three seasons he has had five opportunities to play there but they have not been as memorable as he would have hoped for and if he were a superstitious person he might be starting to feel that the place is jinxed as far as he is concerned.

September, 2010 – First England Start
With numerous injuries to his central defenders Fabio Capello selected Dawson to play in the opening game of the European Championships against Bulgaria. He had a comfortable first half in an in-experienced defence and he covered frequently for the over-adventurous, over-lapping full-back, Glenn Johnston. In the second period as Bulgaria increased the pressure as they tried to level Jermain Defoe’s early first half goal, Dawson’s international inexperience showed as a headed clearance fell for a strike on goal and he was not just as controlled as when playing for Spurs. However, Dawson was ensuring England held their advantage but just before the hour as he went into a tackle he fell awkwardly and seriously injured his knee. It was immediately obvious to everyone that his injury was serious as the medical staff rushed to his aid. He departed the Wembley pitch on a stretcher in obvious pain with an as yet, undiagnosed injury. He will miss next week’s international and latest rumours suggest that he will be out for a lengthy period of time which is a major concern for Spurs.

Taking into account his previous difficulties at the new stadium, Michael Dawson is certainly not enjoying the Wembley experience.

2007-08 Carling Cup Final
Having helped Spurs reach the Final against Chelsea, appearing in four of the five games on the road to Wembley, including the famous 5-1 semi-final victory over Arsenal at White Hart Lane, Dawson cruelly missed out on the final through injury. Two weeks before the final, he sustained an injury early in the league game at Derby County and was sidelined for a month. However, as the team celebrated their stirring extra time success over Chelsea, Dawson showed his character and his pleasure for his colleagues and the club as he watched from the side-lines with a great smile, obviously enjoying the moment and not being overwhelmed by his own sense of disappointment at not being in the team that day.

2008-09 Carling Cup Final
Twelve months later as Spurs endeavoured to retain the trophy, Michael Dawson made it on to the pitch, partnering Ledley King in central defence. This time he played his part as the defence held firm against the strike power of Manchester United but after extra time the match remained goal-less and Dawson could only watch helplessly as United took the game on penalties. Another disappointment at Wembley for Dawson who had again played in four of the five games on the way to the final.

2009-10 F A Cup Semi-final
Spurs were looking good for another FA Cup final appearance, their first since Gazza and the 1991 success over Nottingham Forest, especially as they were playing Portsmouth whom they had defeated twice in the Premier League and who were facing relegation and were in serious financial difficulty. However, the match didn't go as Spurs would have hoped and Portsmouth displayed much commitment and determination and were proving difficult opponents. With no goals after ninety minutes the match went to extra time and looked to be heading for a penalty decider when the highly criticised Wembley turf played a crucial role in proceedings. Unfortunately, it was Michael Dawson who was to suffer as he slipped at a vital moment when he was about to clear the ball in the centre of the penalty area. The ball fell invitingly for Portsmouth who accepted the gift and went on to secure a two goal victory. Once again Dawson was left to rue his Wembley experience.

August, 2010 - England Debut
After enduring a long summer in South Africa, without getting a game at the World Cup, Michael Dawson finally made his long awaited England debut. Having appeared in a number of England squads, Fabio Capello gave Dawson his first full cap as a second half substitute for John Terry in the friendly against Hungary. In the early moments of the half Dawson looked nervous but with the game goal-less he was settling into the match when he moved to intercept a through ball but missed it allowing Hungary to progress into the penalty area. As the England defence covered the attack, Dawson recovered to try to make amends and when a deflected shot came across the goal, Dawson stretched to clear and prevented it from crossing the line. It was a close call but then the French referee's assistant decreed that the ball had in fact crossed the line and a goal was awarded. Television evidence shows that the ball didn't fully cross the line but Dawson had made the initial mistake which had allowed Hungary to create the goal scoring opportunity. Of course, he was wearing the England shirt with number '13'. Fortunately, as it was a friendly international and as England recovered to win the game, the press didn't make too big an issue of Dawson's blunder on his debut and hopefully he will have the chance to add to his international appearances in the future and avoid being a 'one-cap wonder'.

A great former Spurs stalwart, Gary Mabbutt, endured Wembley heartache before being able to enjoy the sweet taste of success at the stadium. Mabbutt had appeared at the ground on a number of occasions both for Spurs and England - he actually made his Spurs debut in the 1982 Charity Shield defeat by Liverpool. Howver, his greatest disappointment will have been the memory of the own goal which enabled Coventry City to wn the FA Cup in 1987. In extra time a cross came into the Spurs area, the ball hit Mabbutt on the knee and looped over the reach of Ray Clemence. Spurs had been clear favourites and it was the first occasion that Spurs had suffered defeat in an FA Cup final. David Pleat's team had come so close to success in all three competitions but in the end had fallen at the final hurdle. It was not until 1991 that Mabbutt avenged this disappointment when he held aloft the FA Cup as captain of the victorious Spurs side who had overcome many difficulties both on and off the pitch to secure their trophy and possibly the very existence of the club. Ironically, it was as Mabbutt challenged for the ball from a corner that Des Walker headed into his own goal to put Spurs ahead.

Hopefully, Michael Dawson will make a full recovery from this injury and in the not too distant future he will be able to set aside his Wembley disappointments and have some exciting memories to tell his grandchildren in the years to come.