ZANDER Diamond is pleased to be back in the Burton Albion fold and admitted to a “frustrating” time as he found himself spending a significant amount of time on the bench for the first time in his career.
The centre-half has played the last two games for the Brewers after Shane Cansdell-Sherriff suffered a broken cheekbone against Mansfield Town on New Year’s Day.
Having played more than 200 games for Scottish Premier League side Aberdeen – including playing against Bayern Munich in the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup – Diamond is arguably Albion’s highest-profile defender.
However, manager Gary Rowett instead sought balance in his back-line, preferring the left foot of Cansdell-Sherriff to compliment Ian Sharps.
“It’s good to get a full 90 of competitive action,” he said.
“It’s all right playing practice matches and reserve matches, but when you’re playing for three points in the league, that’s when the edge comes back.
“I enjoyed it, but I’m not taking anything for granted.
“I’ve been here before, when I was out of the team, and all I need to do is keep performing and give the manager a headache.”
After missing the start of the season through injury, Diamond returned to start three games in September after Sharps’ sending off against Oxford United.
He dropped back to the bench when Sharps returned and had not started a league match since, until Cansdell-Sherriff’s injury brought him back in against Cheltenham Town last Saturday.
“It’s been very frustrating,” he said.
“It’s probably the first time in my career – and I’ve been in the game 13 years as a professional – that I’ve had a period of time on the bench.
“I’m old enough to know that I’ll be needed.
“I’ve made a couple of substitute appearances, but I’ve craved the full 90.
“It was unfortunate for Shane that he got an injury as bad as it is, but it opens the door for myself.
“And all I can keep doing is playing the way I do, and hopefully when Shane comes back I can stay in the team.
“If it’s a month, that takes us into February when Shane might come back, and I need to keep working.
“I worked hard when I was out of the team, and I need to work doubly as hard now I’m back in the team.
“I’ve been around a long time and I know it’s not going to be easy to keep Shane out, but with performances like today, I’m sure I can do that.
“But we’ve got Marcus there and everybody’s frustrated when they don’t play.
“We work together, we’re a good unit, and we help each other when the going gets tough and you’re not playing.”
With youngster Liam Slade waiting in the wings, Burton are well-stocked at centre-half, and Diamond said he and his defensive colleagues were all eager to stake their claim.
“It’d credit to the manager, first and foremost, but I don’t know if he envisaged the problem he might have, because the boys are battering his door down every week to play,” he said.
“That’s credit to the players because we’re hungry and we want to play every single game.
“I want to do that from now to the end of the season, and we’ll wait and see what happens.
“Stranger things have happened – I might get to play the whole season, you don’t know.”
Diamond also took time out to thank the fans – who have often questioned his absence on Twitter and Facebook – for their continual support.
“I’m not on any social media, but I’ve grown close to the fans since I’ve been here,” he said.
“My time here since I signed last summer has been brilliant, and they’ve been brilliant with me and my family, so it’s good to repay them with performances.
“You make sure you look after yourself when you’re not in the team, because you could short-change them if you come back in and are sloppy.
“So my performances are for the fans, first and foremost, and for myself.”