Numerous characteristics fuelled West Ham United’s run to the UEFA Europa League semi-finals this season – but for humility, few epitomise the quality like Craig Dawson.
The 32-year-old centre-back was given the award for Best Individual Performance at Monday evening’s 2021/22 Betway Player Awards at the Grosvenor House hotel, in recognition of a titanic defensive display – and vital goal – away at Olympique Lyonnais in March.
With the Hammers going into the away leg of their first European quarter-final in 41 years with the scores level at 1-1, Dawson and his teammates knew their work would be cut out to keep a much-fancied Ligue 1 side – whose team boasted then-Europa League top scorer Karl Toko Ekambi – at bay at Parc Olympique Lyonnais.
But not only did Dawson repel everything Lyon threw at him, he also set the Irons on course for an outstanding 3-0 victory with a performance for the ages.
Not only did the centre-back block an incredible six shots and make six clearances, but he capped a dominant display by opening the scoring with a near-post header from Pablo Fornals’ corner shortly before half-time.
It seemed every time Lyon came forward, Dawson was in the way, in one particular passage of play in the second half blocking no fewer than three different attackers’ efforts on goal. He was, quite simply, magnificent.
But never one to bask in the glory, it was – typically – Dawson’s humility and considerate nature which shone through when he collected his Best Individual Performance award.
“It was obviously a massive game for us and we knew we needed a result,” he smiled, speaking to West Ham TV. “Credit to the lads, we put a great shift in there.
“It was a great team performance and luckily I managed to get a goal, which is always nice, but credit to the lads. It was a great result and great for the fans as well.
“It just shows to all the kids out there that if you work hard and dedicate yourself, there’s a chance for you there.
“For all the kids out there, just work hard and keep enjoying it.”
Dawson’s Best Individual Performance Award was voted for by supporters over a shortlist of fellow nominees.
Unstoppable. Immovable 🧱— West Ham United (@WestHam) May 9, 2022
Craig Dawson wins the Best Individual Performance of the Season award for his shift at Lyon, as voted for by you! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/RyT1ndD9tS
Those contenders comprised Michail Antonio (for his record-breaking brace in the 4-1 win over Leicester City in August); Declan Rice (for his role in the Irons’ 2-0 win at Dinamo Zagreb in September); Alphonse Areola (for his clean sheet in the penalty shootout Carabao Cup win over Manchester City in October); Jarrod Bowen (for his two assists against Watford in a 4-1 win in December); and Tomáš Souček (for his towering showing in the 2-1 aggregate win over Sevilla in March).