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Wolves Starboy is Zimbabwe’s PL Hope

Wolves Starboy is Zimbabwe's PL Hope

In the 2023/24 season, there were 11 Zimbabwean players registered with Premier League teams. Of these 11, only one, Marvelous Nakamba of Luton Town, was registered as a first-team player, with the rest being a part of their club’s U21 team.

Needless to say, even historically, Zimbabwe hasn’t been a well-represented country in the English league and their status as a footballing nation is not very glittering with success.

However, as was seen by the revolution that someone like Park Ji-Sung caused in South Korea, it often takes only a player to break through the glass ceiling and convince kids back home that the promised land is indeed possible.

For Zimbabwe, Wolves’ Tawanda Chirewa can be that guy. It’s a lot of weight to put on the shoulders of a 20-year-old with a grand total of 24 senior Wolves minutes to his name. However, sometimes, the glimpses are all it takes to see that a player is destined for great heights. Chirewa is one such name.

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Who is Tawanda Chirewa?

Tawanda Chirewa is a 20-year-old forward who plays for Wolves. He joined from Ipswich U21s at the start of the 2023/24 season on a free transfer and has mainly been with the Wolves U21 side as well.

However, as he has looked more and more comfortable at that level, he has been given a taste of senior action as well. His two Premier League appearances have totalled 11 minutes and he has played 13 minutes in an FA Cup fixture against archrivals West Brom.

At the U21 level, Chirewa has scored four goals in just six games in Premier League 2. The raw stats become more unavailable when you realise that Chirewa is not an out-and-out striker.

As a right-footed forward, he is a dynamic and versatile player who has been deployed all across the front line as well as behind the striker in a No 10 role. However, like most of academy attackers today, he is not a quintessential inside forward who comes in off the left flank on his stronger right foot.

Chirewa’s game is very unpredictable, as we discuss below.

Playing style

In his career, it can be said that Chirewa has perhaps suffered from being too versatile. He can start on the right, beat his man on the outside and then cut back or cross for his teammate. He can also come off the left to become a more goalscoring threat as an inside forward, while he also has the close control and agility to get himself out of tight spaces as a No 10.

As a result, he hasn’t been able to nail down a single position for himself. While that has helped him to get more minutes and managers always appreciate a utility player, this shifting hasn’t allowed him to develop one skill to a high level, instead has a variety of skills at a serviceable level.

Chirewa’s biggest strength is his dribbling and pace, which makes it likely that his long-term future will be on the wings. Standing at 5’11” with a deceptively strong physical game, Chirewa can give his fullback nightmares with his ability to dribble past his marker.

He combines these raw tools with the intangible of having extreme confidence in himself. Chirewa can regularly be seen taking penalties for his team and has spoken about not being afraid of that pressure but relishing it instead.

His style of play has quickly allowed him to become a fan favourite of the hardcore fans who follow the teams U21s. If he keeps it going with the step up to the senior level, one would presume that followers of the senior team will join that bandwagon too.

But, how far away is that breakthrough?

Future at Wolves

One thing that is working in Chirewa’s favour is that Wolves finally look like a settled Premier League team under Gary O’Neil. A team that is not fighting for its life in the league is naturally more likely to experiment and find gems for the future than the one whose immediate focus is three points in the next game.

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It has transpired that way too, with Gary O’Neil giving plenty of chances to youngsters, especially in cup fixtures. In terms of Chirewa’s senior team prospects, it is unlikely that he will become a regular member this season.

In Matheus Cunha, Pablo Sarabia, and Pedro Neto, Wolves have a core of experiences international who have all sealed their place in the first XI when they are fit. In Enso Gonzalez and Nathan Fraser, they have a couple of youngsters who deputise for their senior counterparts in the odd game.

Tawanda Chirewa will have to force his way into that picture with a strong pre-season at the start of the 2024/25 season. Nathan Fraser did the same and with the possibility of Neto outgrowing the team in the future, there is a place to be won on the wings if Chirewa can put his head down and make the most of whatever minutes he gets.

It is easy to assume that he would likely already be training with the first team, giving the manager a glimpse of what he can offer. Now comes the hard part of separating himself from the pack.

Chirewa has already started separating himself from the pack as the hopeful leading light of a new generation of Zimbabweans for whom Premier League has never looked closer. Making that leap to the promised land and inspiring a generation behind him back in his homeland is the next step.



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