CHRIS DAWSON admits that next season is a massive one in his Leeds United career – and is ready to sacrifice short-term gains this term for long-term progress in 2015-16.
The diminutive midfielder was handed his United debut by former boss Neil Warnock almost two years ago at the age of 18, but has featured just twice in two substitute cameos since.
This despite being considered by many to be the best youth-team prospect at United back in early 2013, only for his progress to have largely flat-lined following his first-team bow. In the past two years, Dawson has seen fellow academy products Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor all become established regulars.
And he acknowledges that he needs to improve to follow in their footsteps and become the next highly-rated talent off the burgeoning academy production line at Elland Road to make it big at first-team level.
Dewsbury-born Dawson will enter the final 12 months of the three-year contract he signed in May 2013 when he returns to pre-season training this summer.
While first-team involvement before the end of this season would represent a fillip, Dawson is looking towards the bigger picture.
Dawson said: “Next season is massive. I am going to be 21 then, so I need to improve a lot more than I am now. Hopefully, I will be. I am still young and need to keep developing my game. I have got a lot of developing I can still be doing.
“I am preparing myself in getting ready for next year (now) and making sure I am 100 per cent ready to go.
“Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, I will take if it does come along. But for now, I am making sure I’m ready for next year. I have spoken to Redders a few times and the conversations we have had will hopefully see me involved next year a lot more.”
Dawson, who impressed in United development squad’s 2-1 win over Brentford earlier this week, admits that he has suffered disappointments at being overlooked over the past two campaigns, but is hoping that patience proves a virtue and is refusing to get downhearted.
The Wales Under-21 international has seen a couple of loan moves designed to boost his experience at first-team level fall through this season, but he is focused on knuckling down for the rest of this campaign – and beyond – as he strives to make a major breakthrough.
He added: “At times, it has (been disappointing), but at the end of the day, you have just got to get on with it and keep going because eventually I believe my chance will come. There were a couple of loan moves, but they fell through for various reasons and I am still here now, enjoying football. Redders has not really said what I need to do and improve on, but I know what I need to and will keep working on it and we’ll see what happens.
“I am just going to keep going.
“You can’t just stop as if you don’t perform, that pushes you away even more.”