IN THE SPOTLIGHT . . . Martin Olsson

7th March 2017
In The Spotlight

He is a Martin Olsson fan and, physically at least, he may now be Swansea City's biggest supporter.

Dirk Nowitzki, a 7ft basketball player who is one of the stars of the NBA, tweeted to his 2.55 million followers last month about his new-found love for the Swans.
Nowitzki congratulated Paul Clement's team on their victory over Leicester City, and posted an image of himself wearing a Swans shirt which had been sent to him by the club's American owners.
There was also a word of praise for Olsson, a goalscorer against Leicester, who is Nowitzki's brother-in-law.
"Dirk is a down-to-earth guy who loves his football and loves the Premier League," says Olsson, who moved to the Liberty from Norwich City in January.
"He is always watching the games and he has a Swans shirt already. He likes Arsenal, but of course his team is Swansea now!
"The NBA season clashes with the football season so it's hard for him to come over - the last time he came was to see Blackburn against Arsenal.
"But he wants to come and watch Swansea. Hopefully he will have the chance to come at the beginning of next season."
Nowitzki is married to Olsson's sister Jessica, a talented tennis player who might have turned professional had she not opted to focus on her education.
Nowitzki is a legend of the Dallas Mavericks team, who he has represented for almost 20 years.
Originally from Germany, he is a former sports personality of the year in his homeland.
And according to Olsson, he is not a bad footballer either.
"He is a big guy - 7ft tall," Olsson adds.
"Maybe he could play centre-back, although he is not the quickest!
"He does have some skills though. I will give him that."
As well as kicking a football around with Nowitzki, Olsson has competed with him on a basketball court.
"We play a bit in the summer," explains the 5ft 10in left-back.
"Because he is so big, I thought I would be quicker and that I could get the better of him that way.
"But it's harder than you think."
Nowitzki comes from a family of sports stars - his mother and sister were basketball players of note, while his dad played handball for Germany - and so too does Olsson.
His identical twin brother Marcus, who is just a minute older, plays for Derby County.
He joined the Rams in January last year, when a certain Paul Clement was the manager.
"I don't think that can have happened too often, a manager signing two brothers at different times for different clubs," Olsson suggests.
Marcus may be older, but it was the Swans' recent recruit who arrived in English football first.
Former Welsh international Glyn Hodges, who was on the staff at Blackburn when Mark Hughes was the manager there, knew the manager of Hogaborgs BK, the small Swedish club where the Olsson brothers learned their trade.
After Hodges visited Sweden, 16-year-old Martin was invited over to England for a trial and he was soon offered a contract at Ewood Park.
At the age of 19, Olsson made his debut for the Rovers first team in 2007.
"I have very good memories of Blackburn," Olsson says.
"I think it's a Premier League club, but they are having a difficult time at the moment. It's disappointing to see the club in the situation they are in now.
"The academy was very good when I was there. They took care of us well. I got my chance under Mark Hughes and then Paul Ince played me when he was manager, although he was not there for long.
"Sam Allardyce didn't play me to begin with, but then I was playing every game and I enjoyed my time with him.
"He started me every week, and I got a lot of confidence from that. I have enjoyed playing with all my trainers, but Sam was good for me."
Unlike his brother, Marcus Olsson played a significant amount of senior football in Sweden before following Martin to Blackburn in 2012.
The twins would be together in Lancashire for the next 18 months.
"I enjoyed that time," Olsson says. "We are identical twins, but I think most people can tell the difference between us.
"I think the manager usually picked the one he meant to pick!"
Olsson takes a second to think when he is asked whether he or Marcus is the better player.
"We are similar," he says. "I think he is maybe a bit quicker than me over the first 10 yards - but I am not saying he is a better player!
"Marcus has been doing well. He was never a left-back until he came to Blackburn - he had been playing as a striker or winger before that.
"But when I left Blackburn he basically replaced me as left-back."
The pair have faced each other only once since Martin moved to Norwich in the summer of 2013.
The Canaries won, and the brothers did not clatter each other.
"We have not done that since we were kids," Olsson says through a grin.
The manager for part of the Olssons' spell playing together for Blackburn was Steve Kean. And for a while, Clement served as a coach under the Scot.
"I worked with the gaffer at Blackburn," Olsson recalls.
"He was only there for a few months but I think everyone in the team liked him.
"I also spoke to my brother a bit about his time with the gaffer at Derby. He said what I knew already - that he is a good coach.
"The training sessions are good and the tactics are clear. He is calm. He puts things across to the players in a calm way and people listen.
"Of course he is strict in training as well. He wants us to do the work properly, so he is not just calm and quiet.
"He is strict in a way, but it's in a way that makes people listen to him. I think that has shown with what we have done on the pitch in the last few weeks."
For Olsson, the move to Wales meant a welcome return to the Premier League.
Having been taken to Norwich by Chris Hughton, he was happy in East Anglia. But after enduring a couple of relegations at Carrow Road, Olsson welcomed the chance to step back up to the highest level.
An international career which has seen him earn 40 Swedish caps - and taken him to two major tournaments - suggests the top tier is where the 28-year-old belongs.
"I enjoyed my time at Norwich," Olsson says.
"In a few transfer windows there had been talk about a possible transfer, it seemed to be either Swansea or West Ham who were usually mentioned. 
"But in the end it all happened quicker than I expected because I thought I would be staying at Norwich this January.
"From nowhere the manager pulled me in and said a bid from Swansea had been accepted."
Though he plays at the back, Olsson has already shown the sort of attacking instincts the Swans were hoping he would bring.
He was heavily involved in that memorable Fernando Llorente goal at Liverpool before he netted against Leicester in only his fourth appearance in the white shirt.
A second goal came during a spectacular individual display against Burnley last weekend.
"Things have gone well for me since I arrived," Olsson continues.
"The training sessions have been intense and the games have been good. We have been playing well and we have picked up some good results.
"Getting my first goal was a nice feeling. It is nice to get one so early in my time here and I was happy to help the team win the game."
Olsson insists he is as happy to be stifling opposing forwards as he is to be the front foot himself.
But in an era where attacking full-backs can be pivotal players, he has the qualities required to be a big influence down the left flank of Clement's team.
Having operated as an attacking midfielder in his younger days, he was used primarily as a left-winger by Allardyce.
"I think I have always had that attacking instinct," Olsson says.
"It comes naturally for me when the chance comes to attack. I enjoy both sides of the game but, with the style of play here, the gaffer wants me to be a lot more aggressive going forward."
Already, the Swans are enjoying the benefits of Olsson's ability in the final third.
And as Clement's men push for Premier League survival, Olsson's experience of past relegation scraps may also come in handy.
"I remember at Norwich (in 2013-14), we felt we were safe in March, then there were results that no-one saw coming like Sunderland winning at Chelsea," he says.
"There's a long way to go still this season and we have to take one game at a time.
"But what we have done so far shows our fans and everyone else that we can beat most teams, and also that we can get results away from home. Now we have to keep that going.
"Of course it is not a nice feeling to go down but, with the team we have here at Swansea, I am confident we will stay up."

In the spotlight with Martin Olsson first appeared in Jack Magazine for our fixture with Burnley. Buy your copy of our official matchday programme HERE.