West Ham United defender Craig Dawson has no doubt been one of the most astute pieces of business that the club have made in recent times, with the Englishman having gone from unglamorous addition to cult hero during his time at the London Stadium.
The 32-year-old was initially snapped up by David Moyes and co on a temporary deal back in the summer of 2020, before the former Watford man ultimately secured a permanent move to east London for a reported fee of just £2m a year later.
That figure has gone on to appear a total bargain such has been the impact that the one-time West Bromwich Albion man has made for the Hammers to date, with BBC pundit Steve Sidwell (5 Live, 09/10/2022, 14:25) notably stating that: “In terms of value for money, I think he’s one of the Premier League’s greats”.
Something of a defensive “warrior”, according to his manager, the £45k-per-week colossus has been a key figure for the Irons in recent seasons, racking up 80 appearances across all fronts thus far – netting an impressive nine goals in that time.
The £2.7m-rated titan was also central to the club’s Europa League run last season having been named in the UEFA Team of the Season as a result, while two of West Ham’s three Premier League wins this season have come with Dawson in the side – the only league outings he has made this term.
Moyes’ men are seemingly suffering as a result of the versatile gem’s current injury woes which have hampered him to date, although the club are likely thankful that he is still on their books, with the Rochdale-born monster having been close to a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers over the summer, which is nearer his Manchester home.
With just under a year left on his existing deal the 6 foot 2 brute still faces something of an uncertain future in his current surroundings, however, with the Irons likely to need to start preparing for life without the player at the club.
In need of a potential heir to Dawson, one possible solution could well be that of teenage star Michael Forbes, with the 18-year-old currently impressing in the club’s youth ranks, having joined from Dungannon back in July 2020.
Part of an exciting crop of Northern Irish talent in the Hammers’ academy at present – alongside the likes of Patrick Kelly and Callum Marshall – the centre-back was handed a first professional deal at the club at the end of last season, as a sign of the undoubted talent that he possesses.
Speaking after agreeing to that new contract, the promising youngster even compared himself to Dawson as a first-team player he could potentially emulate, explaining his reasoning why by stating “because he likes to tackle and head the ball, and I like to do the same”.
The Northern Ireland youth international – who can also feature at left-back – has racked up 12 appearances in all competitions so far this term, including three outings for the U21 side in the EFL trophy.
Forbes has averaged an impressive match rating of 7.23, as per SofaScore, in that competition to date – the third-highest among his young teammates – averaging two tackles, 1.7 interceptions and 5.7 clearances per game.
A player seemingly keen to put himself on the line for his side – much like the old-school Dawson – the emerging starlet could well be a potentially perfect fit for Moyes’ side in the coming years.