Derby County v Hull City - Tigers captain Michael Dawson fixes sights on top-flight return

Hull City's Michael Dawson
Hull City's Michael Dawson
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NO-ONE of an amber-and-black persuasion needs any prompting as to the tumultuous events of May 24, 2008 – the greatest day in the history of Hull City AFC.

Neither do the Dawson family and not only redoubtable former Tigers full-back Andy either.

The club stalwart rightfully took pride of place after helping Hull reach the Premier League Promised Land for the first time in their 104-year history following a momentous 1-0 victory over Bristol City in the Championship play-off final of 2007-08.

While memories of that sweltering Spring day – Dean Windass’s spectacular volley et al – will never fade for the elder Dawson footballing sibling, his kid brother and current Hull captain Michael also remembers that occasion fondly.

Then a player at Tottenham, Dawson – who will today lead Hull into their first play-off campaign since those fateful events of almost eight years ago – watched on from the stands and has images of that day filed in his mind’s eye of an extra-special weekend for the family.

Another choice occasion would await for the Dawson clan if Michael emulates his brother and helps Hull back to the big time via the same play-off route – and you sense that has certainly crossed everyone’s minds.

In the process, it would also make up a little for Andy’s own play-off anguish in 2015-16, with his current side Scunthorpe agonisingly missing out on participation in the end-of-season League One lottery on goal difference by a narrow margin of just three goals.

The Hull captain said: “I was there in 2008. It was an unbelievable day out at Wembley and all the family were at our house in London.

“To go there and then celebrate with the lads after; it was a great achievement for them.

“You look now at the group of players we have got now and, hopefully, we will do that again. But we have to get past Derby first and focus on each game as it comes.

“Wembley is a special place, but only if you win. We must focus on beating Derby over two legs and that is our aim at this moment in time.

“Obviously, I have spoken to Andy. They are disappointed after going so close at Scunthorpe when they could have sat looking forward to the play-offs as well.

“Speaking to Andy, you know the play-offs are special, but only when you win them.”

Before City can begin to think about Wembley, a semi-final with Derby where the margins look tight, must be negotiated with the Rams possessing the psychological fillip of nilling Hull en route to two comprehensive victories in the regular season.

The pair’s last meeting proved particularly one-sided with the rampant Rams comfortably inflicting a heaviest defeat this season upon Steve Bruce’s side, who produced a wretched performance in a 4-0 loss at the iPro Stadium just 39 days ago.

The regular season may be over but, hopefully there is a three-game campaign now on the agenda for the Tigers and Dawson admits that claiming some payback for that desperate episode in the East Midlands can serve as a useful motivation tool.

He added: “I think we can. It is a massive motivation to see what they did to us, certainly away and in the first half at home.

“We have had a chance to look where we can improve as we can’t play as bad as we did in those two games. They will be confident and we have got to go there and perform as we have done and work on what we have been working on all week.”

Confidence should not be in short supply among Hull’s players and while an imposing 5-1 final-day victory over Rotherham United represented sparring before the main bout of play-off business, the sight of Bruce’s side back to their vibrant and imposing best – as previously last witnessed in a powerhouse January – was understandably well-received.

“Obviously the Bolton game away was flat and we had focus going into Rotherham and knew it was our last game before a massive game against Derby,” he said.

“The focus, desire and energy was there and teams can’t live with us when we perform like that.

“It did boost our confidence. We were six points off automatic promotion and when you look back where we dropped points, I don’t think we really recovered from losing to Birmingham and then going to Middlesbrough and conceding in the 90th minute and then not beating Forest and MK Dons at home.

“They were the games, but we are over that and turned up and had the focus against Rotherham and now we move on to Derby and the focus is what we have been waiting for all season.

“We have two chances to get to Wembley and then who knows. We have to focus on going away and doing a job and we will do that.”

Back to that Wembley word again and while Dawson’s professional head may be fully focused on Derby, it is natural to think about what awaits if Hull reach their second Championship play-off final in eight years and book a top-flight return.

For Dawson, it would provide redemption for relegation last year – an event he considers to be the lowest moment of his career.

He added: “It (winning the play-offs) won’t mean any more as a captain. But I think the relegation and feelings I felt last year were the lowest point of my career.

“I have had some great moments in my career, but getting back to the Premier League and lifting that trophy would certainly be up there with the best achievements I have had in football.”