England manager Roy Hodgson insists Tottenham Hotspur skipper Michael Dawson has earned his place in his current squad "on merit" after finally experiencing an injury-free run.
Dawson's recall almost went by unnoticed after the spotlight focused on fellow centre-back Rio Ferdinand's inclusion in the squad for the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro. But Hodgson says the 29-year-old's call-up is as justified as that of Ferdinand.
It comes two years after his last appearance for his country in a 2-0 win against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier. Dawson had also been drafted into the 2010 FIFA World Cup squad in South Africa as a late replacement for the injured Ferdinand but various setbacks have so far restricted him to just four caps.
Hodgson said: "Michael is in the squad on this occasion in the same way as Rio is in the squad on this occasion, because I think their performances merit them being there. Michael hasn't really been a part of my thinking in the past because, to be frank, he hasn't been fit enough to play.
"If we go back to the time of the Euros last summer and the autumn, he wasn't even a potential candidate for the squad because of that reason. But he has been fit for the last couple of months and now he is able to play, I have decided to call him up."
Michael hasn't really been a part of my thinking in the past because, to be frank, he hasn't been fit enough to play.
Hodgson added: "I have always thought Michael was a good player. I don't know if he has developed. You would have to ask his club coaches if they think they have seen a development. But I thought he was a good player when I came across him as an opponent in the Premier League and I see him as a good player today.
"I have met him in the past and had plenty of occasions to see him play on the opposite side when he was in the Tottenham team against either Fulham or West Brom."
Hodgson is content to have an experienced back-up to current number one keeper Joe Hart in the form of Ben Foster who has ended his two-year international exile. Foster temporarily made himself unavailable for selection for his country because of concerns over his fitness but has been in fine form for West Brom during the past two seasons.
Hodgson, who was in charge of Foster when head coach at the Hawthorns, said: "I'm happy with Joe and I know that Ben accepts at the moment that Joe Hart is the number one keeper. But the important thing is to have a keeper of his talent and experience. You never know what can happen in football, we are happy to have a number one like Joe.
"But we can't guarantee that he doesn't get an injury at sometime or, I suppose, he suffers a terrible lack of form although I don't think that is likely to happen. It's good to have Ben back, he's in good form, playing well since a groin operation two or three months ago.
"I was delighted when I got the phone call to say he would be prepared to accept selection once again."