And centre-half says there's more to come from him as he reveals impact his new arrival has had
JONAS Olsson feels he has entered into the most exciting period of his Albion career – and insists: “There’s more to come from me.”
The Sweden international was talking with the Baggies sitting in sixth place in the Barclays Premier League and the halfway mark in the season fast approaching.
And he was in reflective mood as he compared Albion now to where they were ahead of his first Christmas at The Hawthorns five years ago.
“That first year flew past me,” he said.
“Everything was so new.
“I was also injured for a while, just after the New Year.
“But the club has moved on in a big way.
“We have a better squad, we have better facilities to work in.
“The football public look upon us differently.
“Back then we were a Championship side who sometimes went to the Premier League.
“Now we're a stable Premier League side.”
He added: “I was just happy to be in the Premier League.
“When I signed my second contract in the Championship I wouldn't have signed had the club not been going in the right direction, having dreams and ambitions.
“I've always been positive about this club.
“When I signed a new contract this year, again, I wouldn't have signed it if we weren’t where we are.
“This is easily the most exciting period.
“We've had two seasons of finishing 11th and tenth.
“We were fourth when I signed my contract.
“Most of the key players are here on long-term deals.
“Credit to the club for seeing a bigger picture.
“It's exciting for the club - I can see us going places.”
Olsson has been Albion’s only ever-present player in the top-flight this term and the 29-year-old feels he is becoming a better player each season he spends among England’s elite.
“This is definitely not my peak,” he added.
“I don't see this as my last contract.
“I have my best years ahead of me as a centre-half - 31, 32 is normally where you peak.
“The nature of my character helps.
“If I don't see myself developing then that will be time to hang up my boots or find something better to do.
“I don't see myself playing at a lower level when I'm 36 or 37.
“I want to get better.
“That drives me and motivates me.
“Gareth [McAuley] has just turned 33 and has probably never played better.
“He came here when he was 31.
“This is perhaps his best ever form.
“Centre half is a position where you tend to get better because of age - think of [Olof] Mellberg, he's what, 36?
“And he had a brilliant Euros.
“Experience, positioning, the way you read a game - that only gets better as you get older.
“If you have a striker who relies on pace then when he gets older he loses the pace and his influence can wane.
“A centre-half peaks later.”
Olsson has also revealed how becoming a father for the first time to his now six-month-old daughter Iris Annabelle has given him a new perspective on when things are not going so well on the football field.
A quality he admits has been helpful in analysing three successive defeats against Swansea, Stoke and Arsenal, ahead of Sunday’s home clash with West Ham (ko 4pm).
“It's my first Christmas as a dad,” he beamed.
“Before that I had more problems letting go of games when I came home.
“They were constantly in my head, especially after a loss.
“You'd think about it, you'd not switch off.
“Now there are more important things at home.
“I still analyse the game but I find myself in a better mood when I get home.
“That's a good quality.
“Before I would wind things back, I'd be very critical, take it very seriously - I still do that now, I'm very professional and that's a quality of mine, but perhaps I don't over-analyse now.
“You need to learn and develop but there is a time to drop things.
“That's changed since the little one arrived.
“The reasons for not sleeping are different now!
And on this weekend’s opponents, he added: “This is a game we can win.
“We approach every game with that will and desire to win every game.
“West Ham have really played some good football.
“We've been struggling and we need to restore that way of playing that was so good for us in October and November.
“It's an important game.
“We need a good result straight away.
“It's a game every third day, you have little time to make things right so we're determined to get going.
“You shouldn't over-analyse defeats.
“But when you're losing games you have to ask what you can do better.
“Apart from the Swansea game, where we were outplayed, Stoke could have gone either way, and at Arsenal we didn't play our best but in the second half could have got something out of the game.
“It's important to remember we have three losses but we are on the right track overall.
“We need to get everything right for West Ham and find our way back to where we were.
“There isn't a big difference between our last performances and those earlier in the season.
“Our confidence will be improved if we get a win.”