ZORRO, Michael Myers, Phantom of the Opera – Tim Ream has heard all the wisecracks aimed at the unique protective headgear he has been forced to wear for the last six weeks.

Ever since Charlie Austin shattered his nose three minutes into a game at QPR in January, the American defender has had to wear a white mask in an effort to stave off surgery until the summer.

It was a brave move for a player whose stock has risen more than most in a frustrating campaign for Wanderers. And it has also proved a wise decision, as despite frequently turning out in an unaccustomed left-back position, his form has earned him a recall to the international scene just in time for the World Cup finals this summer.

Ream is typically laid back about it all.

“How does the nose look?” he enquired, half-serious, when asked about his distinctive headgear.

“The mask is okay. Every now and then it gets in the way a bit but I’d rather wear it and take abuse than get a nasty knock again and have my nose break, turn sideways and have to get surgery and not be able to finish the season.

“It’s one of those things – the lesser of two evils.”

There is no masking over the fact the season so far for Wanderers has been one of disappointment but with four out of the next five games at home, many feel some goodwill can still be salvaged.

Tuesday night’s grim draw at Derby seemed to split fans’ opinion between those who thought it was a valid point, and those who criticised the return to a more defensive style of play.

“You can’t win them all,” Ream said. “I look at it as three clean sheets out of the last four.

“The Derby game probably wasn’t the best one to watch after the last few but coming on the road against a side third in the standings, we were obviously going to make adjustments to the way we played. I think everyone was happy with the point.

“We’ve got Brighton coming up now and personally I’m just looking forward to continuing the run. Hopefully it’ll be more like the last two we’ve had at home.

“It’s a matter of going out and doing the same things because the goals will eventually come. As long as we keep the back door shut we’ve always got a chance.”

The Derby draw saw Ream reinstated to the middle of defence for the first time since the turn of the year.

His spell at left-back has not been without its problems, not least a tormented afternoon at Reading, but Ream rightly pointed out that he was making progress.

“If you play there long enough you get used to it and figure out where you need to be,” he said. “I feel I’ve done fairly well the last couple of weeks but it’s easier to play well when the team is playing well too.

“I’m just happy to be playing alongside guys who are experienced and know what’s going on.

“Centre-back is probably my best position, or the most natural, but at Derby it was still a bit of an adjustment after playing so much at left-back.

“After an iffy 10 minutes I settled in and me and Zat kept the clean sheet we wanted.”

Ream was paired alongside Zat Knight at the iPro Stadium, a player who has also overcome problems this season and now playing his best football.

From being jeered by his own fans after two mistakes against Middlesbrough, the club captain has faced up to the criticism and responded in a positive fashion.

And Ream feels his team-mate is one of the more misunderstood members of the dressing room.

“He had that rough game that we won’t go into – but he’s stuck at it and that’s what you want to see from your club captain and it’s something that a lot of the guys have taken to. It’s had a trickle-down effect,” he said.

“Nobody really sees what he does behind closed doors and that’s something that does stick with the lads. We know in our minds what he’s doing but unfortunately you can’t open the doors for everyone to look in.

“He’s gone about his business and kept his communication up with everyone, even when he hasn’t played, but his performances since coming in have been great.”