ALAN Knill has hailed the influence young duo Stephen Dawson and Michael Jones have had on Bury’s successful season.

The Shakers manager unearthed two diamonds when he brought them to the club on free transfers last summer, and they are being tipped for bright futures in the game by many observers.

Jones had been released by Tranmere, while Dawson has gone from being relegated to the Conference with Mansfield to player-of-the-year at fourth-placed Bury in the space of 12 months.

“The surprise for me about Dawson was the fact we managed to sign him,” said Knill. “We have nicked him.

“Wherever I was last year, people asked me who the best midfielder was in the league and, like an idiot, I said Dawson.

“I got the job here and I stopped saying that.”

Dawson has gone from strength to strength in the Bury engine room, and Knill believes that was one of the things that persuaded him to sign on at Gigg Lane.

“I told him I thought I could make him a better player and he liked that,” said the manager. “He disregarded the other clubs, and he’s been a really good signing for us.

“He’s a young lad that will only get better because his work ethic and his will-to-win is second to none.

“People always say he’s a bit heavy, but he’s so mobile.

“I think he’s a better player now than what he was a year ago.

“When I first saw him, I liked everything I saw, but he was all over the place and was trying to win the game on his own.

“That can leave the team open, and I knew we had to stop that.

“It was difficult, and it still is because he wants to do everything, but he’s more aware of his position now.”

Jones has been equally as effective for the Shakers, and has excelled on the left-side of midfield.

He has also visibly grown in stature during the course of the season, and Knill added: “It was pure luck with Jonah.

“I had a phone call saying to have a look at this lad because he is everything I would like about a footballer.

“We saw him and knew he was going to be a good player.

“It is his first season, and he has been excellent for us.”