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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 09:17 GMT
Dawson getting back on track
By Jonathan Stevenson

Nottingham Forest defender Michael Dawson
Born: 18 November, 1983
Signed for Forest: 1999
Forest debut: 1 April 2002
Called into England get-together: 19 November, 2002
Play-off semi-final: Sent off vs Sheff Utd in 1st leg at the City Ground, 10 May 2003

Michael Dawson is suffering from what is known in football as second-season syndrome.

The Nottingham Forest defender burst onto the Division One stage last season with a series of stunning performances as Paul Hart's exciting young side pushed for promotion to the Premiership.

Dawson's displays attracted attention not just from a host of top-flight clubs - he was called into an England get-together by Sven-Goran Eriksson after just 15 senior appearances.

But this season has been a world apart for the 20-year-old after contracting glandular fever while on England Under-21 duty in the summer and pulling his hamstring on three occasions.

"You could say it's been a stop-start season for me up until now I guess," Dawson told BBC Sport.

"The glandular fever knocked me back and I couldn't get in a proper pre-season, and then I pulled my hamstring three times just when I was getting right. But that's football."

It was incredible to reach the play-offs, I don't think anyone was expecting that from us
Michael Dawson

Dawson should know more about the ups and downs than most.

In the two seasons he has been involved in the Forest first team, he has witnessed both ends of the spectrum.

Last term he went from virtual unknown to a crucial member of an attractive young passing side that played some superb football and came so close to promotion, losing in the play-off semi-finals to Sheffield United after extra-time.

"It was a brilliant season last year. It was incredible to reach the play-offs, I don't think anyone was expecting that from us," added Dawson.

Dawson (right) with England's Frank Lampard (left) and Trevor Sinclair
Dawson (right) with England's Frank Lampard (left) and Trevor Sinclair

"I was in the reserves at the start of last season hoping to get my chance in the first team.

"Once I got my chance it just went from there, it all happened so quickly, but it was brilliant.

"I was just delighted to get a full season under my belt and do quite well. I wasn't expecting any of the England stuff, that was just a massive bonus."

But this time around he has had to watch largely from the sidelines as Forest plummeted down the table and his mentor Paul Hart was sacked in January.

"I just don't know what went wrong for Paul. I guess after last season everyone was expecting good things and it's been a come-down to be where we are in the league.

"We've lost a lot of key personnel that were in the team last year, but obviously as players we've got to take some of the responsiblilty.

I still believe Forest have the ambition to be a big club
Michael Dawson

"I've never really experienced anything like it. I came to Forest when I was 16 and have always played for Paul, so it's strange him not being around anymore."

Forest are struggling towards the foot of Division One and new boss Joe Kinnear is trying to haul the side away from danger.

Dawson knows that if they can survive this season, the club still has the potential to make it to the Premiership.

"Joe hasn't changed things completely, but it's a new start for everyone and we all have to prove ourselves to him, so it's naturally a good thing," he added.

"Everyone has learned so much from what we've gone through this year and I'm sure we can get out of it.

"I still believe Forest have the ambition to be a big club and there's no reason why they can't get into the Premiership.

"I want to play in the Premiership - why not with Forest?"

Few could doubt that Dawson will soon be plying his trade in the Premiership. With or without Forest.

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