Sheffield Wednesday comment: Deputy Dawson ready to battle for gloves despite Westwood return
There are moments in a football game where time stands still, when thousands of spellbound supporters pause for breath as a result hangs on a knife-edge.
A penalty shout, a thunderous volley, a perilous mistake; it is in these moments that an industry sold for billions to countries most people have never heard of are built on. And one such moment took place at Hillsborough on Tuesday evening.
As Cameron Dawson arched his back, shifted his body weight and clawed Lee Gregory’s goalbound header inches from the Sheffield Wednesday goal line, those assembled awoke from their midweek slumber and rose to their feet.
The 24-year-old has produced memorable moments before, of course, but given his long-term standing as the club’s second-choice keeper, they’ve been few and far between.
Turning up to work every day knowing you’re not likely to be asked to do the job you’re paid for and being asked to prepare the bloke standing in the way of your promotion, life must be strange for a back-up goalie.
“It has its moments,” Dawson told The Star in the days leading up to his dramatic Cardiff call-up. “Like anyone I want to be playing every week and I don't like the fact that it is as it is, but I'm there for the club, I'm employed by the club and I want to make a positive impact on matchdays and help the team get the three points. That's the main thing.”
A lifelong Wednesday fan, Dawson has had a varied lifespan at the club since signing his first professional contract as a fresh-faced teenager back in 2013.
His spell as number one under Jos Luhukay put fire in the belly of an already ambitious young man. Memories of his famous penalty save against Sheffield United have already written his name in Owls folklore, and in remembering his spell as a first team regular, Dawson was honest in his ambition to become his club’s number one.
“There's no better feeling than playing games every week,” he said. “I didn't take it for granted but when it's taken away from you, you really do realise how much it means stepping out on that pitch. That's something I want to push towards and it's ultimately down to me how far I get.
“I'm far from the finished article as a goalkeeper but I'm working hard and I'm trying to make improvements every minute of the day. Ultimately, every chance I get to play I'm trying to bring myself back into the team as a better goalkeeper.”
Those improvements are there to be made, of course. Doubts remain over Dawson’s ability to handle crosses and over his communication with his back four, areas the far more experienced Westwood excels in.
But aerial wobbles were few and far between in his display at Cardiff City, perhaps the most effectively direct side playing in the Championship, and despite question marks over his positioning in their controversial equaliser, this period is a test the keeper has passed with distinction.
Whether it is extended, of course, is a decision for Garry Monk. The Owls boss has always maintained that he is keen to reward players taking their chance in the side, as he has done with the likes of Massimo Luongo and Morgan Fox, and Monk’s assertion that he is considering Dawson’s selection for the game against Leeds on Saturday despite Westwood’s return to fitness will be music to the number two’s ears.
But Dawson is under no illusion what his role is, for now at least. “The main thing as a number two is that you have to always be ready because you don't know what's round the corner and that's the case for me,” he said. “I need to be ready when called upon.”
“I want to be part of this club going forward at a really positive time for this football club.”