AS coaching debuts go, it was something of a horror show.
Michael Dawson’s bow in the dugout as a much-needed extra body following the departure of assistant manager Stephen Clemence came in Hull City’s trip to Bournemouth a fortnight ago.
Hull suffered a 6-1 defeat every bit as embarrassing as the score suggests but D awson, happily back captaining the side after three months out injured, was not put off. Far from it, in fact.
“It was a hard experience and a hard day,” said the 32-year-old, who completed his UEFA B licence when at Tottenham Hotspur.
“Not the sort of thing you want to go through again because of the result. But, for me, it was a great experience and great of the gaffer to invite me down.
“When you get a bit older, you start to think about what you will do after football. I enjoyed the media experience when I was out injured, it was great of Sky to give me that opportunity.
“It was completely different to playing. I did enjoy it and maybe that is something I will look into when I do finish. A lot of players do that.
“Coaching doesn’t give you the buzz of playing but maybe in a few years, when the legs can’t carry me and I can’t get around the field, it (coaching) is something I will look at going into.
“It was interesting to see it from a different side, instead of just having the blinkers on as a player.
“But the (UEFA) A licence takes 18 months to two years to complete. So, at this moment in time, I am just focusing on playing. I love every minute of that.”
City fans will be cheered by that last comment. Dawson has been a key figure for the Tigers since joining from Tottenham Hotspur in August, 2014.
He was the captain who led City at Wembley last May in the play-off final victory over Sheffield Wednesday and his influence at the back was sorely missed during the opening two months of this season. Even in the relegation campaign, Dawson’s displays were of a higher standard than Hull’s defensive record suggested.
It was, therefore, no surprise that Phelan, after seeing his already small coaching squad further decimated by Clemence’s departure to rejoin Steve Bruce at Aston Villa, should turn to Dawson ahead of the trip to Dean Court a fortnight ago.
Phelan knows he can rely on Dawson, as he did in midweek when the former England international was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up at Bristol City.
Considering last weekend’s defeat to Stoke City had been his first action since suffering a knee injury in pre-season, Dawson could have sat out the visit to Ashton Gate to ensure he was fully fit for today’s trip to Vicarage Road.
“The day I signed from Spurs, all I wanted to do was help,” said Dawson. “Our aim was to stay in the Premier League (that first season). We didn’t do that but bounced back last May in an amazing day at Wembley.
“Now our aim again is to stay in the Premier League and, if we do that, we will have been successful.
“For myself, to lead this group of players is an honour. It is a great group and we are having to show the commitment and togetherness we knew we would have to show in the Premier League because it is tough.
“When you are on a run like we are in the league, you have to show mental strength. I thought we showed that at Bristol (in the EFL Cup) and we are going to carry that on throughout the season.
“The gaffer asked me (before Tuesday’s game) how I was feeling. When a manager asks you that, you always want to play. I had been out missing games and I wanted to be involved. The gaffer put me in and it was nice to get on the end of a cross for my first goal in a little while.
“We have to use the confidence of that win and take it into the league.”
City head to Watford desperately in need of a response to what has been a dreadful run in the league.
Phelan’s side have lost their last five games, conceding 19 goals in the process. It is a run that has dumped the Tigers into the bottom three.
“I don’t think it can affect our mentality,” said Dawson about dropping into the relegation zone. “You saw us in the first three games (of the season) and it was a joy to watch. The way we passed the ball was great, we were scoring goals and getting positive results.
“That breeds confidence. We have got an awful lot of games to play and our aim is to make sure we are not in the bottom three come the end of the season.
“We will keep plugging away and stick together.”
Dawson’s sole focus is helping Hull out of trouble. After that, he wants to play for as long as possible. Eventually, though, the moment will come when a new path has to be forged after playing.
Asked if that chastening experience in the dugout at Bournemouth a fortnight ago had given him a new appreciation of the pressures that come with management, Dawson replied: “It is certainly not an easy job.
“I am sure the gaffer will tell you going from a coach to a manager is completely different. As a manager, you have everything to deal with – the press conferences, plus all the staff and players to look after.
“For me to be sitting in the dugout was a different experience, the chance to see it from a different perspective. It was great the gaffer invited me, it was a real honour.
“But playing is the best thing, any player will tell you that. I am sure any coach will tell you that. And I will play as long as I can.
“As long as someone is willing to take me and put me in their team, I will be playing. I love football.”