Dawson back from the brink

Orient skipper eyes famous FA Cup scalp

Dawson: Perseverance has paid off

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Leyton Orient captain Stephen Dawson nearly quit football two-and-a-half years ago, now he is preparing to face Cesc Fabregas.

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League One Orient host Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday, a far cry from when Dawson was relegated from League Two with Mansfield in 2008.

The Irish midfielder, 25, was out of contract that summer and seriously considered his future before kick-starting his career with Bury.

"It was hard losing week-in, week-out," he told skysports.com. "It's always been a burning ambition of mine to never give in but there were times I questioned whether I should stay in the game because I'd just had enough of football.

"I set myself high standards and you start asking yourself, 'when's my luck going to change'. But all credit to Bury and Alan Knill. He inspired me to give it another chance and keep going.

"It was the lowest point of my career and two-and-a-half years later, here I am leading a team out against Arsenal. That's how quickly it can change. If you keep giving it your all, these are the rewards you get."

Proud

Although Dawson was unable to stop the Stags slipping out of the league, he was one of their stand-out performers and had racked up 128 appearances since leaving Leicester in 2005 for first-team football.

There were several offers but Bury boss Alan Knill convinced Dawson to sign a two-year deal at Gigg Lane and the Dubliner helped the Shakers challenge for promotion in each of his two seasons there.

Dawson left on good terms in the summer and was handed the captain's armband on his arrival at Orient, and that decision has been vindicated as Dawson has helped the O's climb into play-off contention while leading their best Cup run since 1981/82 - the last season they were in the second division.

After victories at Premier League hopefuls Norwich and Swansea, Russell Slade's men were rewarded with a home draw against Arsenal and Dawson will have plenty of support at Brisbane Road on Sunday.

"It'll be a proud moment looking up to see my family and friends there because without them, I wouldn't be where I am today," he said.

"I moved a long way from home and there's been a few bad times over here but they've stuck by me.

Honour

"I remember my first year at Leicester. Because I'm such a home person and get on so well with my family, I was wanting to leave after every single training session. But they were on the phone to me saying 'just hang in there', and here I am seven years later.

"There'll be 10,000 people there, including a lot of family and friends, and to lead the team out and stand beside Fabregas will be a dream come true. I know my Dad will be very proud and it'll be a great honour for me.

"I've got 60 or 70 tickets for the game, there's a lot of the Irish coming over - I think Ryanair will be extra busy over the weekend!"

Dawson watched Arsenal's thrilling victory over Barcelona on Wednesday night but admits Orient remain hopeful as they go into the game on a 12-match unbeaten run.

"When the draw was made, we still had another five league games to get through so we couldn't really enjoy it but now the game's fast approaching and I'm so looking forward to it," Dawson added.

"No matter what team they put out they'll have a team of internationals. A lot of the foreign players probably won't have heard of Leyton Orient, but come Sunday, if there's a bobbly pitch and they're not quite the same as against Barcelona then we'll have a glimmer of hope.

"We've nothing to lose and miracles can happen. We've just got to go out there to enjoy the day and hopefully we can give a good account of ourselves."