Wigan Athletic captain's review of 2021
“Where on earth do we start with 2021?!
“Looking back to January when I first signed, it was important for me, on leaving Nottingham Forest, to get games.
“I didn’t really know what position the club was going to be in at the end of the season – like a few of the other lads here.
“But it was a great opportunity for me to get my career going again after a few injuries.
“I knew the challenge facing the club when I signed – both on and off the pitch – and how massive it was.
“We had a lot of young players in the side at the turn of the year, not a lot of experience, and there was also the uncertainty off the pitch.
“It was tough, but we believed in ourselves as a squad, and we just kept ticking off the points we needed.
“There was a real belief within the dressing room, a feeling of ‘let’s just get to the end of the season with no regrets’.
“We wanted to be able to look each other in the eyes at the end of the year and know we’d done everything we could to help the club survive.
“Heading into the penultimate game at Hull, there was still a lot of pressure on us, because other teams at the bottom were also winning matches at the time.
“We weren’t safe at kick-off but, even though we lost, results elsewhere meant we were safe.
“And the feeling of having accomplished what we set out to do was incredible.
“After that, the decision to stay on in the summer was a real no-brainer for me.
“I’d enjoyed my time here so much – in tough circumstances – that I wanted to stay on and help take the club further forward.
“The thing that struck me right from the off was what a family club it is, and I think that played a big part in us staying up.
“And looking at this season, it’s literally night and day from last year.
“Where the club was then and where it is now, it’s just two completely different places.
“No disrespect to any of the players who were here last season, but I feel the playing squad we have now is a lot better.
“You can see that with where we are in the division, and we’re delighted with how it’s gone in the first half of the season.
“Obviously another difference this season is the manager giving me the captain’s armband, which has been a massive honour.
“I think I’ve always had that in me, the desire to do my best for not only myself but also the team.
“I do set very standards for myself and the players around me, and it’s important we’re all pulling in the same direction.
“And I feel I am ready for the added responsibility of being captain at this stage of my career.
“Hopefully I’m doing a good job so far, and hopefully I can lead this group to something special in May.
“Overall, 2021 has been a very strange year for most of us – on and off the field.
“It looks like there might be some strange times ahead, because of what’s happening with Covid.
“But the main thing is we try and stay as fit and healthy as we can and try to keep going.
“It’s also important to remember those who are no longer with us, and they’ll never be far from our thoughts.
“On the field, the main thing is we’ve still got a football club, and we’re determined to do our best to represent the club and the town as best we can.
“The dream is obviously to get back to the Championship.
“And although there’s no guarantees, we all believe that can be achieved.
“All we can do is our best and, with the great support we’ve been getting from the fans, we’re all determined to give it our best shot.”
Tendayi Darikwa was speaking to Paul Kendrick
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