Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Dawson ready for European atonement

Michael Dawson's main aim is reaching the Champions League next year

Tottenham are out to atone for last season's narrow failure by making sure they qualify for the Champions League this term.

Having looked certain to secure a top-four berth for much of the previous campaign, Spurs were undone by a combination of Arsenal's dramatic improvement and a damaging week in March when they were beaten by Liverpool and Fulham, and in between conceded four in the Europa League at Inter Milan.

With their present squad, Spurs are sure to be a force.

But skipper Michael Dawson knows what the aim is.

"We missed out on the Champions League last season, so our aim at the start of this campaign, is to make sure we are in it next year," said Dawson.

"We have to fight for that."

The argument has been put forward that with both Manchester clubs and Chelsea adjusting to life under new managers, an opportunity exists which was not there before.

It is not a theory Dawson gives much credence to.

"You could say there was uncertainty before any season," said Dawson.

"You have to earn the right to win the Premier League. Manchester United did it last season and they will no doubt want to do it again.

"They are a top-class team and have been for years.

"Manchester City have strengthened again, so they will be fighting.

"Chelsea, with Mourinho back are clearly aiming high. Arsenal, ourselves, Liverpool. Everyone wants to be in the top four and back in the Champions League."

Yet the entire pre-season campaign has revolved around Gareth Bale's future.

Manager Andre Villas-Boas completely refused to discuss the matter after Saturday night's six-goal thrashing of South China, having grown thoroughly weary of questions being put to him about Bale's future every day in Hong Kong.

Chairman Daniel Levy has a reputation for being one of the shrewdest operators in the transfer market.

And with rumours growing that Bale wants out, and eye-boggling transfer fees being spoken of that Manchester United would have to match if they wished to try and keep the Welshman in the Premier League, at some stage Levy's business brain will surely determine a transfer is better for all parties.

For now, though, Bale is scheduled to return to training after injury on Wednesday, with the north Londoners adamant he will be in contention for the friendly in Monaco next Saturday.

Dawson, however, was keen to talk about the goal-scoring exploits of Jermain Defoe, who fired a hat-trick in the side's latest victory.

"Winning football matches is always good and it is great for Jermain to be amongst the goals," Dawson said.

"But pre-season is about fitness and getting minutes under your belt.

"We want to give individuals game time but all that matters is the first game of the season.

"A few years ago we went unbeaten in pre-season, winning virtually every game, then we got off to a bad start in the Premier League.

"At this stage of the summer, you can't get too carried away when it is going well and you can't get too downhearted when it is not going so well."

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