Dawson dreaming of cup success
Michael Dawson hopes this will be the year that he finally ends his long wait to lead Tottenham to glory at Wembley.
Andre Villas-Boas relegated club captain Dawson to fifth-choice centre-back at the start of the season, but the Tottenham manager has regained his trust in the England international recently, and Dawson looks every inch the regular fixture in the side that he had become over the seven years he has been at the club.
During his time at Spurs, Dawson has been to Wembley three times but has never been on the winning side.
He tasted defeat at the semi-final stage of the FA Cup in 2010 and 2012 against Portsmouth and Chelsea respectively, while he was also in the team that lost on penalties to Manchester United in the League Cup final four years ago.
The only time Spurs have been successful at Wembley of late was five years ago when they beat Chelsea in the League Cup final, but much to Dawson's dismay, he missed the game through injury.
But having been impressed by a pep talk by Villas-Boas at the start of the season, Dawson is convinced this could be the year he gets to lift a trophy with the north London club.
"We spoke to the gaffer at the start of the season and we said we want to win trophies, as players and as a team," the Tottenham skipper told Spurs TV Online.
"That's what you look back on at the end of your career. We have had two Wembley trips in the League Cup - one win and one loss.
"Wembley is a special place. To go up those steps and lift that cup would be special.
"And every player will say the same as me - the FA Cup is massive for us.
"We've had some good runs in it, we have been to Wembley twice, but had both unfortunate experiences against Portsmouth and Chelsea for different reasons.
"We want to go all the way and it would be a dream come true to do that."
Typically for such a straight-headed man, Dawson will not speak about his dream of lifting the trophy without a gentle reminder to himself that there is still a long way to go before that can happen.
Spurs have potentially one of the trickiest ties of the fourth round in the form of a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds.
Although tomorrow's opponents have suffered a dramatic fall from grace since their recent glory days, Dawson has warned his team-mates they could be knocked out of the competition if they do not perform to their best.
"It's a one-off game. If we are not at the races we will come unstuck," the former Nottingham Forest defender said.
"Leeds have some good players. It will be a sell-out, the fans will be right behind them and the atmosphere will be rocking so we have to be ready.
"It's a massive football club, one that wants to be back in the Premier League, but for ourselves we have to be professional and do a job. It will be a tough battle.
"Neil Warnock always gets his teams up for them so we have to be ready and we certainly will be."
Defender Jan Vertonghen has recovered from illness and is available for Tottenham. Centre-back William Gallas, who has been out with a calf injury, could also feature, but France defender Younes Kaboul (knee) is unavailable.
Leeds' Capital One Cup run ended with a 5-1 defeat to Chelsea last month but Tottenham are an even better team than the European champions, according to United manager Warnock.
The Whites claimed the Premier League scalps of Everton and Southampton before a second-half capitulation against the Blues before Christmas, but have another chance to impress against top-flight opposition at Elland Road tomorrow.
Tottenham have grown into the season under Villas-Boas and produced an exhilarating performance against Manchester United last weekend which leaves them third in the table, ahead of the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea.
And Warnock, who has got the better of Villas-Boas when the two were at different clubs in the past, thinks Spurs are where they are on merit.
"They're an excellent team and when you watch them get 61 per cent possession against Manchester United, you realise what you are up against," he said.
"I didn't see a weakness in them last weekend. They are playing with a freedom and are relaxing now that Andre Villas-Boas has got his feet under the table. I think they'll be pushing the top two soon.
"If you look at their team from one to 11, they have everything that I look for in a team. Pace, power, strength and entertainers. I think they are a better side than Chelsea."
Leeds will be without on-loan teenage midfielder Ross Barkley. The 19-year-old, two games into a month-long loan spell at Elland Road, has not been given permission to play in the competition by parent club Everton.
Warnock has several options at his disposal, with midfield trio Michael Tonge, Paul Green and David Norris all vying for a return to the starting line-up.
Warnock will be choosing from an otherwise unchanged squad, which will include striker Luciano Becchio, who handed in a formal transfer request on Thursday.