Player to watch this season: Craig Dawson at West Brom

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If there was ever a season for West Brom centre-back Craig Dawson to establish himself as the Baggies’ defender-in-chief for the future, this is it.

The youngest member of the first-team squad, Dawson has been limited to just nine Premier League appearances since signing from Rochdale in 2010 and has found himself at the end of a snaking queue of ancient centre-backs for two seasons.

Unable to push the likes of Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley from their walking frames the 23 year-old found himself dispatched to Bolton on loan last term in order to get some game time.

However, the preferred starting pair of Olsson and McAuley – who will have a combined age of 63 this season – went on to ship 57 goals in the league, causing manager Steve Clarke to look for reinforcements this summer.

The Scot would do well to take notice of Dawson’s budding potential prior to parting with any cash though as strong performances in the lower leagues and a burgeoning international career at youth level indicate the young centre-back could be his long term solution.

Dawson’s spell with The Trotters was deemed a success and his development as a goalscoring centre back gives him a further leg up over his positively barren counterparts.

In 87 league games for Rochdale, Dawson bagged 19 from the back while contributing four goals in 16 games for Bolton. It is in England’s U21 side that Dawson has really impressed however, racking up 15 appearances and scoring an impressive six times.

The fact that West Brom, who are 14/1 outsiders to improve on last season’s eighth place and finish in the top six, are rebuffing transfer enquiries for Dawson indicates that Clarke is finally ready to give youth a chance, with the Rochdale native first in line to benefit.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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