No Leicester City fairytale in mind for Tendayi Darikwa, who just wants Burnley starting place back
As he prepares for his first ever season in the Premier League, Chesterfield old boy Tendayi Darikwa isn't pinning his hopes on a Leicester-City-style fairytale.
In fact the 24-year-old has one very simple aim – to get back in the Burnley starting 11.
A year after he left the League One Spireites, Darikwa is on the verge of a season in the top flight with the newly promoted Clarets.
Pre-season began a week ago and it’s a chance to catch the eye of boss Sean Dyche, the man who shelled out £500,000 for him in 2015.
“I don’t want to push the boat out too far,” said Darikwa.
“My aim is just to get back into the starting 11 and put in some good performances.
“For me, it’s about working hard and hoping I get a chance to contribute.
“I finished the season out of the team and my aim is to get to the start of the season fit and healthy and hopefully I can impress the manager.”
Last season the right-back made the step up to the Championship with aplomb, making 21 first-team appearances by the end of January.
But then Matt Lowton made the position his own as Burnley went on to win the Championship title.
For Darikwa, the time he spent out of the team did not diminish his pride at how far he’s come in the game.
“If you had told me a couple of years ago that I could be playing for Burnley, winning the Championship and getting promoted to the Premier League, I would have snapped your hand off,” he said.
“Obviously I was disappointed not to play every game, as a footballer you want to, but I’m at a good club with a lot of good players.
“The main reason I signed was to get promoted. Getting promoted was special. As a new player, I was pleased to be able to play a part.”
In total Darikwa made 24 appearances for Burnley last season.
He can take heart from his performances in his first campaign as a Championship player, along with a few special memories and lessons learned from top professionals around him.
“I had to learn to play against better players and improve technically,” he said.
“But I think I coped relatively well with the step up.
“Playing against Arsenal was nice, my first game at a Premier League ground and an FA Cup game too.
“But making my debut at Leeds, away, stood out.
“I don’t think there’s any tougher first game than that in English football.
“At Burnley we have players who have been in the Premier League and last season we had Joey Barton, someone who has played at the highest level for a number of years – you do learn little bits off them.”
The Clarets’ promotion was the second of Darikwa’s short career, having won League Two with the Spireites in 2013/14.
He looks back on that achievement as the highlight of his time at the Proact.
“We had a really good group of players there under Paul Cook and that was a really big year for me personally and for the club,” he said.
“I’m still in touch with a few of the boys, I’m still close with Jay O’Shea and Tommy Lee and a few others.
“Chesterfield are one of the first results I look for after my match has finished.
“They didn’t hit the heights last season but the manager had left and a few players and it was a bit of a transition season for them.
“But they’ve made a few signings early on this summer and hopefully they can have a good season and push up the league.”
As for his current club’s immediate future, Darikwa is making no predictions.
“Leicester City have shown that anything is possible.
“I’m not saying we’re going to win the title but we’re a confident group and a close group and we believe in ourselves.”