Imps Secure Signature of International Right Back

Credit Chris Vaughan

In a rather surprise capture, the Imps have signed former Nottingham Forest and Wigan defender Tendayi Darikwa.

Darikwa, a Zimbabwe international, was with Cypriot top-flight side Apollon Limassol, and regularly appeared for them in the 2023/24 season, making 37 appearances across all competitions. His capture is a surprise because he doesn’t fit the usual profile of an Imps signing – he’s 32, which is probably as old as anyone we’ve signed since Liam Bridcutt.

Darikwa started his career with Chesterfield before a big-money move to Burnley. They paid £550,000 for his services in 2015, and he helped them to the Premier League but didn’t appear in the top flight. He did appear in a famous FA Cup game of theirs, at Turf Moor, in 2017.

Wigan and Darikwa at the Bank
Credit Graham Burrell

After that, he moved to Forest, making 63 appearances across a four-season stay, before joining Wigan in 2020. He helped steady the ship with the Latics, impressing them in the season that they avoided relegation despite a points deduction (the first one). He then appeared 43 times as they won the title in 2021/22. He played a further 27 times in the Championship in 2022/23 before his move to Cyprus. He penned a two-year deal at the Alphamega Stadium but terminated his contract there a year early over the summer.

This one has taken me by surprise, as it is certainly outside the recruitment model we have been using of late. However, it also shows a willingness to work outside the rigid structure for the right type of player, which many fans will feel is a breath of fresh air.

“I’m delighted to be here and have the deal done,” he said. “The ambition of the football club stood out to me and it’s a club with great values.

“The club was so close to getting in the play-offs last season, and I feel we can build on that. I want to be a part of it, I want to help and hopefully we can do that together.

“I can pass my experiences over the years onto a young squad with plenty of talent. I can have an influence in the dressing room as we learn about each other on and off the pitch.”

Credit Chris Vaughan

Head coach Michael Skubala was enthusiastic about his new signing, adding: “Tendayi is a player of real calibre and a person with exceptional human qualities, which combined will be a real addition to our squad.

We needed to look at the position differently and in Tendayi we have identified and recruited someone with different strengths but still the physical attributes a Lincoln City right wing-back requires. He will be a massive influence for us on and off the pitch.”

Director of football Jez George acknowledged the player doesn’t fit the recent profile of incomers, but also explained why. “This is obviously a signing outside our usual recruitment model but we talk a lot about number of games played rather than age being the determining factor when signing senior players, and therefore the same should be true when the player is 32 rather than 23. The key is fitness, hunger to achieve and character.

“In meeting him, Michael and I know the latter two are two huge ticks and in passing a thorough medical, including a battery of physical testing, we know that Tendayi will be among the fittest in our squad. His recent playing record also shows that.

“We are really excited by Tendayi joining the club, turning down other League One clubs in the process, and look forward to his impact on the pitch as well as around the Soper of Lincoln Elite Performance Centre.”

Getting on well with new teammate McGrandles – Credit Graham Burrell

Despite being a Zimbabwe international, we shouldn’t have to worry about losing him for AFCON or anything like that – he hasn’t appeared for them since 2020.

What is interesting about Darikwa is his profile. He’s not just a right back, but a right wing back and has even played right wing in Cyprus. He feels like someone who will be comfortable slotting into a four, as we did for periods of games last season, but also attacking as a right wing back with a back three behind him. Perhaps that’s why we’ve looked outside the recruitment model, trying to find the right player over and above the right player profile.

He’s also played left back and left centre back for his Cypriot club, and was playing wide on the right for Wigan in our clashes with them. One thing is for certain – this signing is one for the team, one that covers us and improves us, rather than one we’re trying to turn around for profit.