Dawson’s Cheek – a slap in the face to Hillcroft

The Rochdale Observer has reported that Craig Dawson; our mercurial centre-half and would-be Premier League starlet has formally handed in a transfer request. While Dawson’s imminent departure is unsurprising, and his obvious ambition even less so, the way he has gone about engineering his dream move away may feel like a slap in the face to Keith Hill and Dave Flitcroft.

Transfer requests are typically the refuge of a desperate footballer; they signal intent to leave current employment as soon as possible. Is Keith Hill really holding back the development of young Craig? Is he really turning down bids of a decent value? Chris Dunphy and Hill himself have stated that Dawson is for sale, and at the time of writing, only one publicised (and widely regarded as derogatory) bid has come through. Hill is doing the right thing by holding out for a decent sum. For Dawson to submit this request is to say one thing “Sell me now, no matter the price”. He may as well have climbed Rochdale Town Hall and mooned.

There is no doubting that Craig has the ability to play at a much higher level, and of course, ‘ambition’ is a buzzword that Hillcroft never stop banging on about. Almost nobody believe Dawson will still be at Spotland come August, and almost nobody would begrudge him for it. But this transfer request smacks of opportunism, and potentially could hamper the amount of money we eventually get for Dawson. Does that sound like the actions of a boyhood fan turned terrace hero?

It’s puzzling really, that someone so outwardly committed to Rochdale AFC could then conveniently drop that pretence as soon as their name appears the News of the World gossip columns. Or perhaps it really isn’t puzzling at all. The link posted above takes you to a news piece about Dawson extending his contract in mid-February, something which was seen by most fans as a way of guaranteeing a saleable asset some the summer. What was refreshing then was Dawson’s “immense proudness” at playing for the club he “supported as a boy”. They didn’t feel like empty words then, so what has changed?

The answer would probably lie with that parasite of football, that scavenger of the game; the ever-present agent. I wrote about another of our young stars, now gone, back in January 2009 – Will Buckley’s representative’s attempts at crowbarring his employer away from Rochdale didn’t work and were at best laughable. But it did seem after that initial stupidity, Will Buckley’s agent did not act too badly; Buckley did not publicly express a desire to leave (he did say he wanted to play further up the league, but this is different), and eventually Buckley got his move, for a reasonable price, and with little or no resentment from either Dale fans or the management. Why Craig Dawson cannot follow Buckley’s lead and act with a little more decency is anyone’s guess. After all, what does this transfer request achieve? Would Dawson have been sold without it? Definitely. Would we get the same amount of money now that Craig has declared his impatience? Possibly not.

I really like Dawson, as a footballer and as a man, but somehow, predictably, it seems that the spectre of the agent has corrupted his decency. The request is both immature and short-sighted, and some of Dawson’s magic aura may well be rubbed off in the eyes of the supporters he so claims to represent. It may end up that nobody benefits from this.

Written by Matt Boothman on 26th June 2010.

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