AFTER 11 frustrating months on the sidelines Markus Olsson hopes he has done enough in his surprise comeback match to retain his place in the Blackburn Rovers starting line-up for Sunday’s East Lancashire derby with Burnley.
And if Olsson, who made his first league start since April in Saturday’s 4-0 defeat at Bolton Wanderers, does get the nod from boss Gary Bowyer it will be his first taste of one of British football’s most bitter rivalries.
The 25-year-old signed for Rovers in January 2012 but has not featured in any of the three clashes with the Clarets that have taken place since then.
Olsson, however, knows all about the importance of the derby.
And if does need a reminder of the passion it can evoke he need only ask his twin brother Martin, who will go down in derby legend for the crucial but controversial role he played in Rovers’ 1-0 win at Turf Moor in the Premier League in March 2010.
The left-back sparked outrage among Burnley supporters – and the condemnation of then Rovers boss Sam Allardyce – when he dived over Brian Jensen to win the penalty from which David Dunn settled the contest.
Martin no longer has to face the wrath of Clarets fans after leaving Ewood Park in the summer to sign for Norwich City.
But fellow Sweden international Markus will do so on Sunday – providing he keeps his position in Bowyer’s starting line-up.
“It’s a big game not only for the players but everybody around the club and the town,” said Olsson, who was an unused substitute when Rovers drew 1-1 at Turf Moor last season after Sam Vokes struck late on to cancel out Jordan Rhodes’ opener.
“We’ve just got to work hard this week and put in a good performance against Burnley.
“When we’ve played them in the past I’ve been injured so this will be my first one if I play.
“Of course I want to play in it but every week I want an opportunity – not only next weekend against Burnley but every weekend.
“On Saturday I just tried to work my socks off and put a shift in but obviously the result wasn’t there.
“But hopefully I showed enough to at least be in the manager’s mind.”
An injury to captain Grant Hanley led to Olsson being handed the chance to revive his Rovers career in Saturday’s trip to the Reebok Stadium.
But his delight at starting his first Championship game since the 4-0 loss at Watford late last season was tempered by a desperately disappointing result which ended Rovers’ five-match unbeaten run.
“It was a great feeling to be on the pitch but at the end of the day it is about winning so it was disappointing,” said the attacking left-back, who forced Bolton goalkeeper Adam Bogdan into a fine save, went close with another effort from distance and sent over a cross from which stand-in skipper Jordan Rhodes should have scored.
“But it was nice to be back. It has been a frustrating 12 months and while I don’t try to think about it too much of course sometimes it crosses my mind that I have not been playing for a while.
“I have just tried to work hard and not complain.
“I have worked with our sports science group and in training I have tried to show that I want to be part of the team.”
It is a team which Olsson believes, despite the Bolton setback, can push for the fourth and final play-off place.
He said: “Heads are down and nobody is happy about the result.
“We made Bolton look a bit too good – better than they are. We are a good team and we should not have let them play like that.
“I think if we had scored first then the game would have been different. We had two good chances when the ball could have gone in and some half chances as well.
“On another day they would have gone in and they would have missed their chance but it was just one of those days for us.
“The message in the changing room at half-time was that we still wanted to go for it as we are a strong, fighting team who fights for each other.
“What we tried in the second half didn’t work but now we have to think about the other games and move forward.
“Burnley is a big game but so are the next 13 games after that. What is important to us is that we make the play-offs.
“We have a strong team and Saturday was just one of those days that wasn’t the best.
“Hopefully we will bounce back on Sunday with our great support.”