Fabio Capello insists Michael Dawson will be a key member of his 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ squad after the Tottenham player was called up as a replacement for injured England captain Rio Ferdinand. Dawson will link up with the squad today - only days after his 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ dreams appeared to have been shattered.
Dawson was one of seven players axed from Capello's initial squad of 30, which prompted Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp to launch a strong verbal attack against the Italian coach. Redknapp claimed Capello had only picked Dawson and West Ham United midfielder Scott Parker "to make up the numbers" in his original party and had "no intention" of naming them in his final 23. Dawson did not feature in either of the warm-up internationals with Mexico or Japan.
But Capello has refuted Redknapp's claim and is adamant every player originally picked was chosen on merit. Capello said: "I didn't hear when Redknapp said that. For me, all 30 players who stayed with me in Austria are important, really important for me. For this reason, he (Dawson) was one of the players. I know the value of these players because I chose them.
"Matthew Upson didn't play (against Mexico or Japan) but he's out here in the squad. For me, it was important to find out and learn about all the players as they trained together. It's not important what other managers think about the players I've chosen. Dawson will be pleased to come here."
Dawson impressed at England Under-21 level although the 26-year-old has yet to taste senior action for his country. He came to the attention of Capello following an outstanding season at White Hart Lane, helping Spurs claim a Champions League spot. He will now be vying with his club-mate Ledley King, Upson and the versatile Jamie Carragher for a place alongside John Terry.
Dawson was starting to arrange his summer holiday when he got the call, initially placing him on standby. He told the official Tottenham Hotspur website: "It's a crazy game and things can change in a split second. One minute I'm trying to arrange my holiday, then I get a call asking if I was on holiday because Rio had pulled out of training. I said 'no' and then I was just waiting by the phone before getting a call saying I would be picked up in an hour. It's been a crazy day. I've not had time to think about it but I've had call after call with people wishing me good luck.
"I know all the lads through having been with them for two weeks, so I'll just be going out there and training as normal. I was planning to watch the first game of the tournament with my friends and family, but now I'm going to be there for real. I'll be going out there still having not yet won a senior cap, so what better place to get one if that was to happen. But I'll just go there and train like I do every day at Spurs and we'll have to see what happens."
Having missed out on the 2008 Carling Cup final victory over Chelsea due to injury, Dawson knows how bad Ferdinand must be feeling. He is also aware that no end of kind words and attempts to drag the Manchester United man out of his despair will do any good. "For Rio to get injured, there would be no worse feeling for him as a player. To miss the biggest tournament in the world as the captain, I feel for him," said Dawson. "I missed the Carling Cup final in 2008, and there was nothing anyone could have said to me that could have made me feel any better. For Rio, the feeling will be the same."