Craig Dawson cites 'warm welcome' since transfer to Watford
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A centre-back had been at the top of Watford's transfer priorities for what felt like an eternity. It's an area of the pitch which has visibly served as their downfall for multiple seasons, yet many of those worries have now been somewhat quenched.

Craig Dawson joined for £5.5m from West Bromwich Albion at the beginning of July and goes a long way towards answering ongoing questions Vicarage Road. At 29 years of age, he is a player at the peak of his footballing powers with a host of invaluable experience to boast.

What's more, the know-how defender appears to have integrated into his new environment comfortably, perhaps in part due to his reunion with former Baggies teammate Ben Foster who is likely to feature alongside Dawson for the vast majority of the campaign ahead.

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"Every one of the lads has been fantastic," Dawson said jovially. "I think Ben tipped a few of them off about me! But I've had nothing but a warm welcome since I arrived. It's a group that are together and and everyone works very hard."

Mutual respect

Manager-player relationships are increasingly important in the modern game — the recent saga surrounding Gareth Bale at Real Madrid only proves that a clash of personalities or desires is enough for entire careers to edge towards deterioration.

But it seems Dawson and his new head coach, Javi Gracia, have hit things off on the right note since the centre-back transferred to Vicarage Road in July.

Dawson, for his part, appreciates Gracia's footballing fervour and scrupulousness, aspects which many of the current squad have hailed as crucial factors in Watford's recent successes.

"I've been very impressed with the coach. It's just been everything really; his passion for football, his detail — every little detail is covered. Every player knows what is asked from him and what his role is."

Meanwhile, Gracia is delighted with his new acquisition, and believes Dawson has the mental and technical capacity to become an influential player for the Hornets.

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The Spaniard, renowned for his ability to instil defensive solidity into his players, watched glumly as Watford conceded 59 goals in the Premier League last season — the eighth-worst record in the competition — but clearly has faith that Dawson can be the player to amend that flaw.

"He's a very good professional and a very good player for us," Gracia said. "He's one more into the squad, into the group, and he's the right player for us with his personality and quality. I'm sure he will help the team a lot this season."

Instant impact

Although Watford could not boast the most impressive defensive record in 2018/19, they benefitted from the service of a number of skilled centre-backs, a cohesive group of players which Dawson is now both a part of and rivalled with.

Last season, the starting pairing was usually formulated from a permutation out of Craig Cathcart, Adrian Mariappa and Christian Kabasele, but there were also sporadic appearances for Sebastian Prödl and the now-departed Miguel Britos.

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However, Dawson believes that his interactions with Gracia so far indicate that he is set to take on the role of a crucial performer for the Hornets, and is excited by the challenge that competition in the centre-back department will provide to him.

"We've had a lot of conversations. He wants me to play an important part in the squad. There is lots of competition and great players in the squad and everyone is pushing for a starting place."