Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWEAN international Tendayi Darikwa, who had called Nottingham Forest his home for the last three years, has made an emotional farewell to the English Championship football club’s fans after completing his move to League One side Wigan Athletic on Monday.
The 29-year-old was forced to make the move to the third tier of English football after he fell out of favour with the Reds manager, Chris Hughton.
Darikwa missed the entirety of last season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and has not played for Forest since March 2019.
The player has scored 13 goals in 242 career club games.
Darikwa has, in fact, not played a part in this year’s campaign despite recovering fully from a knee injury that kept him out of action for about a year.
The versatile fullback made an emotional address to passionate Forest fans on his Twitter handle, saying it was “not the way I imagined it ending”.
“From a young age I wanted to play for this football club,” he said.
“I’m thankful and grateful for the opportunity to do that. Not the way I imagined it ending, but that’s life.
“Thank you to everyone for the love and support during my time here, especially through last season’s injury.”
Darikwa was one of the most popular figures with the fans in the Reds team during his stay at Forest.
The fans admired his energy and passionate attitude on the field of play.
The decision by the club to release him this month has enraged fervent Reds supporters who felt he was still an asset.
Most of the fans regard Darikwa as one of their own since he was born in Nottingham, a city in central England’s Midlands region. Playing for the club also meant a lot to Darikwa and he always gave his all.
But a decision had to be made after he had fallen down the pecking order, with Cyrus Christie taking over as first-choice right-back and Carl Jenkinson providing back-up.
The fans have always questioned why Darikwa was being frozen out despite having fully recovered from the knee injury. They took to the social media to vent their disappointment as they felt the right-back was not given a fair chance upon his return from injury.
“I don’t get it, you should have been given a chance to show what you have, a better option than Christie. You’ll prove your worth at Wigan, hoping you come back and show the manager what you can do,” posted a Twitter user by the name Malcom.
“Good luck buddy, I personally thought you should have had more game-time. Such a shame. Hope things work out for you,” tweeted one Gary Marriott.
“Circumstances were against you but it is a big shame you weren’t at least given a fair chance to show what you could do. You are a true pro and a positive character so I’m sure you’ll do well moving forward. Will be keeping an eye on your progress. Thanks for your efforts,” added Dublee Smith.
Another fan, Steve Smith, said he found it strange that Darikwa was being overlooked when the club was struggling in the Sky Bet Championship. He has also been following Darikwa’s performances in Zimbabwe colours during the 2021 AFCON qualifiers where the defender put in a brilliant shift.
“This is ridiculous, he’s better than Christie. Since he’s recovered from his injury he’s featured more times for country and club. It’s strange he’s been frozen out once fully fit,” said Mitchell.
Darikwa singed for Forest in 2017 for £1 million from Burnley and his contract was due to expire in June this year. Unfortunately, he experienced challenging times in his last year at Forest.
Darikwa helped Burnley win promotion to the English Premier League, after joining from Chesterfield, where he started out.
The 29-year-old suffered a ruptured ACL on the eve of the last campaign and only returned at the back end of the season, being an unused substitute in the final weeks, following the Championship’s restart.
He now looks to reignite his career at the Latics after sealing a short-term contract that will take him to the end of the season.
He has represented his country Zimbabwe in recent months and has been training with Forest’s first team as well as building his match fitness with the Under-23 side.
With over 200 league matches to his name, the right-sided defender told the Wigan media that he is ready to make an impact at the DW Stadium.
“I’m delighted, it’s happened quite quickly,” Darikwa told Latics TV.
“I’m (now) a Wigan Athletic player and I’m delighted to be here and I can’t wait to get started.
“I’ve not played too much football in the last 18 months after a bad injury. But I’m fit again and I can’t wait to get on the pitch and start playing competitive games again.
“I hope to help the team as quickly as possible. I’ve looked at the league table, of course we are in a tough position at the moment in the league. I think we have enough quality to get out of it. I want to come in and help the lads and hopefully move up the league.
“I’m fit and have been training with the first team at Forest since I came back from my injury and I haven’t missed a session. I’ve played a few international games as well (for Zimbabwe) and I came through them very well.
“It’s important now to play some competitive games at first-team level, help the lads and hopefully get some wins as quick as possible.
“First and foremost, I’m a defender so I want to come in and help the team be solid at the back.
“I also want to help the team get up the pitch and use my pace and my energy, so I can hopefully get a few assists and try and nick a few goals if I can.”
Darikwa’s reference for the move was Latics’ assistant manager Leam Richardson, with the pair previously working together in a successful period at Chesterfield.
Wigan Athletic currently sit second from the bottom on the log standings after 20 games in League One.
Darikwa began his career at Chesterfield, working with Paul Cook and Richardson in Derbyshire during a successful period in which the Spireites won the Sky Bet League Two title in 2014 and finished in the play-off places of Sky Bet League One within a year.
After winning Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year for the 2014-15 season, Darikwa attracted interest from the English Premier League and Championship, with Burnley winning the race for his services that summer.
Darikwa featured 21 times as the Clarets won the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League in 2016, though after a further year at Turf Moor he moved to Forest.
Having played 63 times for the City Ground side, he now joins Latics looking to help his former assistant manager Richardson and ex-Chesterfield teammate Dan Gardner to secure Latics’ Sky Bet League One status. Darikwa is a former teammate of a number of ex-Latics, including Samy Morsy, Gary Roberts, Danny Fox, Kieran Dowell, David Jones, Ben Watson, Richard O’Donnell and Matt Gilks.
He will wear the number 2 shirt during his stay at the DW Stadium.