Jonas Olsson believes he is finally starting to show West Bromwich Albion fans his real capabilities.
The 6ft 4in Swedish centre back has been a giant for Albion in their last couple of fixtures and says that is down to the fact that he finally feels at home at The Hawthorns.
Olsson, who signed from Dutch club NEC Nijmegen in August for an initial fee of £800,000, said it took time for him to adjust to his new team-mates and the demands of the Barclays Premier League.
However, the 25-year-old has started to form a useful partnership with Abdoulaye Meite and is hoping they can carry on in a similar fashion when they face Sunderland at The Stadium of Light this Saturday.
“I feel I am more comfortable in the group now and I know the guys better, what kind of characters they are and what kind of players they are on the field. That is important if I want my game to develop here,” Olsson said during a visit with his team-mates to hand out presents to children being treated at Sandwell Hospital.
“The tempo of the football is a lot higher here than in Holland. The Dutch league is more about possession, keeping the ball and playing it around. Here it is more intense, it is faster and players are stronger. It is a few steps higher than the Dutch League.
“It is about being comfortable in the group, because my game is about directing the players in front of me and trying to lead a little bit from the back. That is easier the more you know the guys.”
Olsson has been left as frustrated as everyone else by the poor return of points from the past nine league games but believes Albion are a whisker away from being a decent Premier League side.
“We have been playing well for the past month but at the end of the day it is the result that matters, of course,” Olsson said.
“The basics are there. That is the feeling the team has that we are not far away but we need to be more clinical in both boxes, defensively and offensively.
“We probably haven’t had much luck but over a whole season that is going to even itself out.”
The last time Albion travelled to the North East was to face Middlesbrough in September. Olsson has fond memories of that day, because not only did Tony Mowbray’s side pick up their solitary away victory of the season so far, but Olsson scored the only goal.
Now Olsson is confident they can pick up a second away-day success against a Black Cats side that is third from bottom and will be without manager Roy Keane, who resigned last weekend.
“I have good memories from that game at Middlesbrough,” he said. “It is one of those six-point games. It is going to be very important and we will be going there for the three points.
“We will respect Sunderland. They are a difficult team to play, but of course there are no easy games in this league. If we perform the way we have done that last few weeks and be a little bit sharper in the box, then we have a good chance of the win.”
Albion have recalled striker Craig Beattie from his loan spell at Crystal Palace in the wake of Ishmael Miller’s injury, which will keep the 21-year-old out of action for up to nine months.
The Scotland international joined the Eagles at the end of September and has smashed five goals in 15 Coca-Cola Championship appearances for the London outfit.
He was due to remain at Selhurst Park until December 28 but returns to The Hawthorns on the back of three goals in his past five games, which has helped Palace move up to eighth in the table.
Beattie has made two substitute appearances in the Barclays Premier League for the Baggies this term and will now increase Tony Mowbray’s striking options alongside four-goal top scorer Roman Bednar and Luke Moore.