Dawson: I've been to hell and back after false fixing charges
Rochdale midfielder Stephen Dawson has spoken of the "nine worst months of my life" after charges against him for his alleged part in spot-fixing were dropped by Britain's National Crime Agency.
The Dubliner, 29, has vehemently protested his innocence since his arrest in April last year as part of the NCA's investigation into betting irregularities. He was one of 13 players charged and released on bail.
He expressed "huge relief" after charges of conspiracy to commit acts of bribery, conspiracy to cheat and entering into an agreement to launder criminal proceeds in relation to match-fixing football league matches were dropped.
"Since my arrest on April 2 2014, I have always maintained my innocence and remain shocked at the allegations made against me," he said.
"They have been the worst nine months of my life - my family and I have been to hell and back. The embarrassment this has caused, and the stress it has put on myself and those closest to me, is something I will never forget.
"My reputation and integrity were seriously tarnished. After 10 years in football and having played over 400 games, the after-effects of this whole situation had left me at rock-bottom and ready to quit the game that I love.
"With my reputation in ruins I was left with no club or contract in the summer and if it was not for Keith Hill and Rochdale FC I don't know where I would be now.
"I would also like to thank Danny Wilson, the manager, for standing by me when the allegations were first brought to light and I was arrested.
"I have always indicated my non-involvement in this matter and total innocence and I am pleased that the Crown Prosecution Service have withdrawn the prosecution. Happily I can now finally move on with my life and my career."
Dawson, who joined Rochdale in the summer on a free transfer from Barnsley, was arrested shortly after allegations were made in the Sun on Sunday, in which former Brentford and Reading defender Sam Sodje was alleged to have told an undercover reporter he could arrange yellow and red cards in exchange for cash.
The case against all 13 footballers investigated has been dropped due to "insufficient evidence", the CPS said.
Meanwhile, Paul Lambert has hit back at Darren Bent and insisted that his decision to exile Aston Villa's record signing was not a grudge.
Lambert has revealed that Bent was frozen out due to his lack of impact. The £24m forward is now playing for Derby County.