While relegation inevitably means bad news for West Brom, it’s great news for any of their former Premier League rivals looking to pick up players on the cheap this summer. Indeed, that’s the curious thing about the Baggies’ season; when you look at the actual complexion of the squad, barring dearths of quality in certain key departments, it’s laced with players who have proven records in the top flight, alongside a few underrated gems.
Versatile defender Craig Dawson goes some way to filling both categories. He’s made over 150 appearances in the Premier League, having earned his move to the Hawthorns in 2011 by impressing in the Football League with Rochdale, and has unquestionably been amongst the Baggies’ most consistent performers over the last few years. Yet, perhaps because West Brom have been far from a fashionable club during their final few terms in the Premier League, Dawson has rarely received the acknowledgement his form’s deserved – at least, not from those outside of the west Midlands club.
And in truth, that unfashionable style is partly what has made Dawson such an effective and competent defender, especially under Tony Pulis, by mastering the basics of the trade while playing out of position. Clearly a centre-half by nature, Pulis deployed Dawson at right-back and that incredible height and power across the backline became a defining feature of the Welshman’s Baggies side – one which helped push them to an impressive tenth-placed finish last term.
Following Pulis’ departure, Dawson was allowed to undertake his more natural role, alongside Ahmed Hegazi at the heart of defence, and the 28-year-old impressed there too – playing at centre-back during clean sheets against Manchester United, Tottenham and Newcastle, which gave Darren Moore’s side a glimmer of hope of sensationally avoiding the drop.
Indicative of how influential Dawson’s been this season, regardless of position, the Baggies’ win-rate has moved from a mere 9% to 25% when the 6 foot 2 defender’s made their starting XI – the only time he hasn’t being the twelve games he missed between October and December through injury. Perhaps even more tellingly, that was the period of the season when West Brom’s campaign really began to spiral out of control.
That’s not to suggest Dawson’s absence is the primary reason West Brom have failed to beat the drop, but it’s clear the defence struggled at times in his absence and it also took an unlikely source of goals out of the team. Scoring has actually been a key feature of Dawson’s career; he’s finished the last two seasons with four apiece in the Premier League, and netted a staggering 22 in 94 appearances during his time with Rochdale.
Looking around the top flight, West Ham are amongst the clubs most in need of a reliable centre-half. While Declan Rice has established himself as a promising option ahead of 2018/19 and Angelo Ogbonna has been decent when fully fit, Winston Reid is nursing a long-term injury and James Collins will leave the club when his contract expires this summer.
Amid such dire straits, David Moyes was forced to depend on a teenager in Rice and a full-back in Aaron Cresswell to complete the Hammers’ often shaky back three. In fact, throughout the entire campaign, Italy international Ogbonna was the only out-and-out centre-half to make more than 17 top flight appearances for the east Londoners. Moyes’ successor, Manuel Pellegrini, has already told the press he wants “four or five players”, and a new centre-back will surely be on his wishlist.
March reports from Mirror Football suggest Dawson could be available for around £10million this summer, which seems a far price to pay for an English centre-half with a proven record in the Premier League. But potential competition from Burnley, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough could end up elevating that figure somewhat.
So, West Ham fans, would you back a swoop for Dawson? Let us know by voting below…