WANDERERS loan defender Craig Dawson may still be waiting for his debut in a Whites shirt but he is in line for his first start of 2013 tonight when England Under-21s host Sweden at Walsall.

The 22-year-old has been a regular in Stuart Pearce’s ranks for the past 18 months and was also a part of his Team GB Olympic side last summer.

And he will be hoping to line up in tonight’s friendly to help his bid for match fitness after just three club games for parent club West Brom this season.

It is the start of a big year for Dawson who hopes a three-month spell back in his native North West with Wanderers will keep him in Pearce’s plans for this summer’s European Under-21 Championships in Israel.

Dawson has high hopes the team can be successful in that tournament if they maintain the levels that saw them qualify through their controversial play-off with Serbia in October.

The Rochdale-born centre-back said: “We’ve got to start 2013 well and it begins tonight against Sweden.

“Everybody will want to play well, impress and book their place on the plane in June.

“In every game we all want to do our best and be involved in the next one, but at the back of everyone’s mind now is that Israel is approaching, so everyone will want to be in that squad for the finals.

“I think we have a great togetherness, that’s through the team and the staff. It’s such a close-knit unit.

“Every game we’ve played there’s always been a few new additions and they have all been welcomed into the side and settled in nicely.

“Everybody enjoys playing for England and being a part of this squad, and that is where the success has come from.”

Whites boss Dougie Freedman enlisted Dawson to bolster his defence, and fought off competition from several other sides to secure his loan.

Dawson is certainly a man in demand and it is no surprise with his penchant for scoring goals as well as keeping them out. He has netted five times in 10 games for the U21s but still values defending as his primary role.

Dawson added: “I’ve had a good run with England and one I’ve enjoyed very much.

“It’s always nice to pop up with a goal, but from a defender’s point of view it’s all about keeping them out at the other end.”