Andy Dawson: 'I've many great Hull City memories which will stay with me forever'
ANDY Dawson is the man who has seen it all at Hull City. Ten years of service have brought three promotions, a famous win at Wembley, the club's only top-flight stint, relegation and even a brush with going out of business.
He has amassed more then 300 appearances under seven managers, and in that time has been a mainstay of the club during it's most successful decade.
But, having kicked off his richly-deserved testimonial campaign this week, surrounded by playing colleagues both past and present, Dawson admits it is a period in his life which has flown by.
"Obviously, had somebody said when I signed for Hull City that I'd still be here 10 years later I wouldn't have believed them," Dawson told the Mail.
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"Football is a game where there are no guarantees week to week, or even day to day, so to still be here, and to have achieved so much in that time, is amazing."
Amazing is a word Dawson uses repeatedly as he recalls the Tigers' rise from the basement division to the Premier League – even standing as England's third highest-placed side at one point late in 2008.
Signed as a free transfer by Peter Taylor from Scunthorpe ahead of the 2003-04 promotion winning campaign from Division Three, Dawson played a key role in helping City banish their reputation as long-standing underachievers.
For his first five years at the club, City enjoyed one of football's biggest fairytale stories of recent times, but despite so much having happened, he recalls every minute, right back to the very start.
"I feel honoured and privileged to have been part of a great period in the club's history," Dawson said.
"The club has achieved so much in such a short space of time, and the funny thing is that, even back to those very first days, I can remember them clearly like they were yesterday.
"I can remember sitting in the stands after I joined the club because I was injured at the start of my first season.
"I remember thinking 'wow' I can't wait to play at this great stadium in front of these great fans.
"Then I was lucky enough to score in each of my first two home games, and it has been a joy ever since."
Promotion in that first season, lifting City out of the basement division for the first time in 19 years, was a massive step for the club.
Few were to know it would be the first step on a rapid rise to the Premier League, but Dawson recalls how Taylor, his manager at the time, knew City were on an upward curve.
"I can remember walking around the stadium with Peter after the first promotion, and he was talking about doing the same 12 months later," Dawson said.
"We did that of course and to get to the Championship through back-to-back promotions was a great achievement.
"We then had a couple of relegation battles in the Championship, and there were some difficult days, but sometimes it is just your time in football, and 2008 was our time.
"There were so many things which happened that season that makes me think it was just meant to be. It just seemed to be written in the stars that we would be promoted that season, with it all being capped off by Deano's winner at Wembley."
That promotion, unsurprisingly, is Dawson's most treasured memory from his 10-year spell.
However, it is not the day out at Wembley which stands out in the 34-year-old's mind, but the run-up to that historic day, and the tension and excitement around the city over what was about to happen to the club.
"People often ask me what my favourite memory or game is, and for me it isn't just one game, but the three games leading up to Wembley.
"Firstly, the Ipswich game in the final league game that we lost, and then the two play-off matches against Watford. It just meant so much to everybody involved. You could feel it across the city.
"I can remember the final 15 minutes or so against Watford at the KC, when it was clear that we were going to Wembley.
"The atmosphere was electric in the KC and it was very emotional. Those are the kinds of memories that will stay with me forever."
Dawson also says the difficult days, even though they have been in the minority, have also reminded him why his time has been so special.
"The fans have always been right behind the club, they are superb," he said.
"One thing that sticks out for me was when we played Sunderland at home in our second Premier League season, and we were relegated that day.
"I can remember how the fans were cheering us throughout the 90 minutes. They were letting us know that they were behind us through thick and thin.
"It is easy for fans to come and cheer you on when you are winning, but when you go through tough times, that is when you need fans behind you.
"Our fans showed that the people of Hull stick together, and that is the great thing about the city and the club.
"I have already had so many messages of support for my testimonial year. I know they will come out and support my testimonial, and that makes me very proud."
• Picture gallery: The Andy Dawson years