Zimbabwe international Tendayi Darikwa admits he was always hopeful of getting back into the Championship after dropping a division with Wigan Athletic.
The Wigan Athletic captain left Nottingham Forest in January 2021 for a Latics side who were odds-on to drop into League Two.
But after a remarkable ‘Great Escape’, Darikwa and Latics made it out of the league at the right end last term, to reclaim their place in the second tier.
Leaving Darikwa to feel it was a career plan that had paid dividends.
“I always hoped I’d get back to the Championship,” he said. “When I joined the football club, even during administration, it was always a goal to get back to the Championship.
“Then when the takeover happened, and you hear about the vision of the new owners, you want to be a part of that.
“We’ve had to overcome a few hurdles already, including staying up in the first year.
“But certainly for myself, it was always with one eye on getting back into the Championship, and thankfully we’ve managed to do that.”
Having played almost 100 games in the Championship with Forest and Burnley, Darikwa is perfectly placed to assess the step facing Latics this term.
“It’s a step up in quality across the park, which you’ll find going up into any division,” he said.
“But as far as the Championship’s concerned, that extra bit of quality means you can’t make mistakes or you’ll be punished.”
While Darikwa will be coming up against Burnley this time, he won’t be facing Forest, who secured a long-awaited return to the top-flight last term through the play-offs.
“It’s been 23 years since Forest were last in the Premiership,” added Darikwa.
“And as a Nottingham lad, it’s great to see the football club back in the top division, where they belong.
“I managed to get to the second leg of the semi-final at the City Ground and the atmosphere was unbelievable.
“They deserved to get through and win the final, and I wish them all the best for next season.”
Latics kick-off their Championship campaign next weekend (Saturday, July 30) with a home game against Preston.