ZANDER Diamond was pleased to have the chance to bid farewell to the Burton Albion fans with an appearance at Wembley, but wished he had been able to help the team to promotion.
The popular centre-half was brought on early in the second half of yesterday’s League Two play-off final for Marcus Holness, to play his final minutes for the club he will leave this summer.
Diamond has agreed to join Northampton Town, the club with whom he spent a successful loan spell.
“The supporters have been fantastic with me from day one and at Southend I got to give a goodbye,” he said.
“It’s a bit of a bittersweet one because you’re leaving but you get to see the fans, who have been great for the past two years.
“I’m glad I had a chance to play one last game, and doing it at Wembley is not too bad.
“But now it’s pastures new and the focus is Northampton now.”
Diamond was included in the squad for the play-off semi-final second leg at Southend United after Ian Sharps’ dismissal in the first leg, and admitted it was a surprise recall.
“I came in last week, but believe it or not I was in Scotland when I got the call after Ian (Sharps) got the dismissal,” said the 29-year-old.
“The manager said a couple of weeks ago that players who thought they wouldn’t be playing football again for Burton Albion might suddenly get their chance.
“You need to be professional, and I’m still contracted to Burton Albion.
“I don’t think anyone could question my commitment out there and it would be wrong of me as a professional to let my team-mates down.”
His first contribution to the match was to rise above the opposition to meet a cross, and though he steered his header wide, the former Aberdeen stopper admitted he say his name in lights.
“I’m not going to lie – in the week people were saying ‘what if you got on and scored’ and talking about all the different permutations.
“As soon as the ball came in, people saw me rising and maybe thought it was written in the stars.
“It didn’t go in but that’s the way I play and it’ll be the same with Northampton.”
The Brewers lost the match when Antoni Sarcevic’s free-kick sailed over everyone in the box, including wrong-footed goalkeeper Dean Lyness, but Diamond backed the 22-year-old custodian to bounce back.
“It’s unfortunate what happened for their goal, but Deano is a good goalkeeper, he’s young and he’ll learn from it,” he said.
“Fine lines in football define games, we’ve seen that over the course of the weekend and he just has to go again.
“The boys are fully behind him and he’ll go again.”
Having been part of the team who lost in the semi-final to Bradford City last year, Diamond can see progress at the club, and has backed them to go all the way in 2014/15.
“Obviously the result is disappointing for the boys, for the manager and for the supporters,” he said.
“But that’s football, and they’re a great bunch of lads in there with a great coaching staff and I don’t see why Burton can’t go again.
“Last season we had the disappointment of losing in the semi-final of the play-offs.
“We’ve gone a step further again, got to the final, so the law of averages would suggest you’d go up automatically.
“But it’s a difficult league, as teams on their day can beat anybody.
“It’ll be a competitive league and anyone could get those top three places.”