Saturday, 5 June 2010

Rio's bed barely cool as Dawson touches down in South Africa, ready to train

MICHAEL DAWSON is here. He touched down at Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo Airport this morning ready for the greatest month of his life.

Yesterday he was 5,000 miles away contemplating a summer holiday and how he was going to persuade the missus to let him watch England’s World Cup campaign on the television.

Then England captain Rio Ferdinand’s knee gave way during England’s first training session at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Complex after a challenge involving Emile Heskey. The injury-prone Manchester United star – who played started 13 Premier League games last season as he struggled with back and thigh problems – was rushed to hospital, underwent scans and was ruled out.

While we wrote the footballing obituary for a 31-year-old who is unlikely to feature at Brazil 2014, Dawson was fielding the call from Fabio Capello. I imagine the conversation would have gone something like this from the Italian Generalissimo: “Michael, your country needs you. Get to Heathrow, pronto!”

Dawson, 26, who flew in on the same plane as several reporters, has had to miss today’s wedding anniversary... but his bags came off the aeroplane first.

Part of the original 30-man squad, Dawson has yet to win an England cap. He heard on Tuesday he hadn’t made the cut, last night the dream was back on line. This afternoon he will be training with the squad before the opening Group C game against the USA in Phokeng on June 12.

Apparently he told a passenger on last night’s flight that he really felt for Rio after the “sickener” of a last minute injury.

And Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, who spent the middle part of the week insisting Dawson should have joined White Hart Lane pal Ledley King in South Africa, found himself saying yesterday: “You can rely on Michael Dawson, no problem. Rio will be a big miss, but Fabio could not have a better man to call on if he has to.

“It really won’t be a problem for Michael, he will get on a plane, deal with it and just give his all. He will also be a great character around the camp because he is always smiling and is a tremendous lad. “At the start of the season, he was not my first choice at Tottenham, he was third or fourth choice, but he did not sulk. He just worked hard, got his head down and grabbed his chance when it came. I’m sure he will do exactly the same with England. He’s had an absolutely wonderful season and proved he is one of the best central defenders around.”

Redknapp believes Capello will no go with a centre-back pairing of King and Terry, adding: “I don’t think people need to worry too much about Ledley possibly getting injured as well. Six days between games is fine for Ledley.”

The challenge on Didier Drogba which changed the World Cup forever:

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