Nottingham Forest favorite sends passionate ‘heroes’ message ahead of Wembley showdown

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Nottingham Forest fans’ favorite Michael Dawson says securing promotion to the Premier League would be “life-changing” for everyone at the club.

And he has urged his former teammates to seize their opportunity to be heroes at Wembley, when they face Huddersfield Town in the play-offs final on Sunday. They may never get a better chance to write their names into Reds folklore, according to the ex-defender.

Dawson knows what it takes to succeed in the Championship play-offs, having triumphed with Hull City in 2016. He also knows the difference being in the top-flight can make, from his time with the Tigers and Tottenham Hotspur.

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A boyhood Forest fan, he came close to a top-six finish during his second spell at the club, when the team fell agonizingly short under Sabri Lamouchi two years ago. And he is eager for the Reds to end their long exile from the top tier.

“It’s special. It really, really is,” the 38-year-old said of the play-offs final. “It’s an opportunity to change their lives as players. And to get the club back to where it belongs, in my opinion.

“It’s been 23 years out of the Premier League, which is way too long. The fans are amazing. It’s a major football club which should be in the big-time.

“They have a chance to be heroes. That’s what it comes down to.

“I’ve played in the play-offs final with Hull City, who had only been out of the league for a year and bounced straight back. But that relief and joy is one of the best days you will ever experience as a footballer.

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“Some of the guys might not get a better moment in their careers than getting the chance to go play in the Premier League. It’s life-changing, not just for the individual but for everyone at the club. I know what it’d be like for the staff as well.

“Huddersfield fans and players will be saying the same; they know what it’s like, because they’ve been in the Premier League recently and haven’t been out of it for too long. They will know what it means, too. It’s an incredible game of football.

“You know what it will do for the owners, for the club and everyone involved, as well as for the city. The Premier League is the best league in the world; it is, with the finances, the worldwide exposure and everything else.

“As someone who has not long been out of the game and who knows those players, I know it’s an opportunity for them to fulfill their dreams. You do not get many of those chances. If you are fortunate enough to experience winning at Wembley , it’s an incredible day and an incredible achievement.

“It would be unbelievable if they could do it. I watched the club the last time they were in the Premier League.

“From the age of eight or nine, I was a Forest fan. I had Bryan Roy on the back of my shirt, I watched them in the Premier League, I’ve got a photo with Brian Clough and my two brothers when he was trying to sign Andy, so I know the history of the football club. I’ve been there as a 10-year-old boy.

“I had to leave to go and fulfill my dreams as a professional footballer. You love the football club, but as a player, you go on to play in the Premier League, play for England, play in the Champions League … That , unfortunately, wouldn’t happen for me at the club I grew up watching.

“But these lads … Joe (Worrall) is Nottingham through and through, Yatesy (Ryan Yates) and Brennan (Johnson) have been there since they were young lads. For them to have an opportunity is incredible. This is their club, and no team has been as close as these guys have, for as long as I can remember. ”

Dawson hung up his boots last summer, having made more than 120 appearances in the Garibaldi in his two spells. And he says retiring draws into sharp focus just how special such occasions as playing at Wembley are.

“You get to an age where you know it’s going to come to an end one day,” the one-time center-back, who now works as a pundit for Sky Sports, added. “But these days do not come around very often. The lads have got to realize that, particularly the younger lads. It comes and goes so fast. These days do not just happen. ”

How are you feeling ahead of Sunday? Have your say in the comments below

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