West Ham United‘s triumph over plucky Danish outfit Silkeborg on Thursday evening saw defender Craig Dawson make his first start of the season, with the Englishman having only recently made his return from a thigh injury.
The former Watford man’s sole outing prior to that had come as a late substitute in the win over FC Steaua Bucharest a week earlier, with it having been a welcome sight to see the 32-year-old come out unscathed during last night’s victory.
The typically reliable centre-back marked the occasion with a header late in the first half to put the Hammers firmly in control, with that effort eventually proving vital as the visitors were forced to hold off a late rally to claim a hard-fought three points.
Such an impact has seemingly become the norm for the old-fashioned “warrior” – as described by manager David Moyes – with the £2.7m-rated man having recorded an impressive haul of nine goals in 76 appearances for the east Londoners since his arrival just over two years ago.
While something of an unglamorous addition at the time, the £42.5k-per-week colossus has since become a real cult figure among the club’s support, having notably played a crucial role in the surge to the Europa League semi-final last season – earning a place in the UEFA Team of the Season as a result of that impressive form.
His importance to the side has also been illustrated as a result of his absence in the early weeks of the season, with the London Stadium outfit having picked up just four points from their opening six league games, with the defence having been a particular issue thus far.
An injury to summer signing Nayef Aguerd during pre-season left Moyes distinctly short of options at the heart of the backline, with veteran gem Angelo Ogbonna only recently returning from a long-term injury, while Issa Diop sealed a switch to newly-promoted Fulham.
Although Thilo Kehrer has somewhat eased those concerns after joining from Paris Saint-Germain, there still appears to be a real need for Dawson in the side, with it having been a wise decision from sporting director Rob Newman not to sanction his departure over the summer.
The one-time West Bromwich Albion man had seemingly been keen on a return to the Midlands and appeared close to making a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers on deadline day, only for West Ham to pull the plug after failing to secure a replacement in the form of Jan Bednarek.
That failed move has seemingly proved a blessing in his disguise, with Moyes badly needing a fully-fit Dawson back in his side on a regular basis.