ZANDER Diamond is hopeful of making his first appearance of the season for Burton Albion in tomorrow’s home clash with Portsmouth.
The 28-year-old centre-half has missed the first few weeks of the season with a damaged ligament in his foot.
But he is now back fit – although he does not expect to automatically walk straight back into Gary Rowett’s starting XI.
“It would be disrespectful of me to think I can come straight back in,” said the ex-Aberdeen defender. “Phil (Edwards) has been doing really well since he came to the football club and Rory (Delap) can slot in there, too.
“It’s the manager’s decision and if you get a starting berth you’re not going to turn it down.
“I’m a professional and I want to play every single game and if he calls upon me hopefully I can repay him.”
With Ian Sharps now banned for three matches after his red card against Oxford United, Diamond could come straight back in to give the Brewers some aerial presence at the back.
Diamond, though, feels for the unfortunate Sharps, who did not deserve his red card after a minor scrape with Dave Kitson last week.
“I can sympathise with him,” said the Scotsman, who was himself unjustly sent off in last season’s 1-1 draw at AFC Wimbledon. “From where we were sitting, the referee didn’t blow until seeing Kitson react.
“Usually with that, it’s the player who’s been adjudged to have raised his arm (who is in trouble).
“It just looked like a tangle
“The big man (Sharps) is an honest player and it’s unforunate for him.
“If the ban stands then he’s going to miss three important games for us.”
Diamond has stepped up his training this week, playing – and scoring – in Monday’s 1-1 friendly draw with a Leicester City XI.
He had not featured for Albion since their pre-season clash with Nuneaton Town on July 16.
“I hadn’t kicked a ball in a competitive game since the Nuneaton game,” said Diamond. “It seems a hell of a long time ago.
“But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.
“Last week was quite a broken week with the game against Notts County in midweek.
“I trained with the youth team and all went well there.
“You can only keep doing as much as you can off the field, but you need game time.”
For Diamond, the foot injury came at just the wrong time but fortunately it was not as serious as the one sustained by former Brewers skipper John McGrath, who was absent for nine months after surgery.
“It was an ongoing problem,” said Diamond. “I had it (on the pre-season training camp) in Malaga but we thought it was just a bit of tightness.
“I trained and played on it for two weeks onwards.
“If we had nipped it in the bud at that time (maybe I would have been out for less time) but I managed to play on and it came to a head at Nuneaton.
“A scan revealed a small tear – that was the discomfort.
“My game is based on jumping and heading and I couldn’t do either.
“I had to make a decision to sit out the first five or six weeks to hopefully prolong the season and not be injured throughout.
“I’ve worked very, very hard with the physio and sports scientist and they’ve got me, hopefully, in good shape.
“They’ve spent a lot of time with me in early mornings. I’m fit and ready.”
Diamond, a vital component of the team which reached the play-offs last season, has not enjoyed watching from the sidelines.
“It’s been a fantastic start,” he said. “Each Saturday it’s been difficult. Coming to the home games is okay because you can be around the boys and can watch the game.
“But it’s frustrating when you’re watching it on a Saturday afternoon on TV. But I’m fit and ready and pushing for a squad place.
“It’s credit to the boys to go toe-to-toe with Fulham and nearly get through in that game, and games that we might not have won last season we’re winning.
“It’s given us a good platform in the first month to go on and have a successful season.”