Toumani Diagouraga is a calm and unpretentious man.
Off the pitch, the man affectionately known as ‘Dave’ during his days at Brentford is a polite figure who stands for himself. On this one, a frantic movement, on occasion, will suggest he’s uncomfortable in possession.
Internally it couldn’t be further from the truth and with an often exquisite touch or laser-guided pass he has the ability to turn defense into offense in the blink of an eye.
At 33, he also has the experience to go along with those favorable attributes – over 450 appearances in the league, League one and League two, in fact.
Now practicing his profession in Morecambe, everything is rosy. But the Frenchman had to take a rocky path to get to this point.
Monday May 31 2:30 p.m.
After a six-year stint at Brentford in 2016, he made 20 appearances for Leeds, with a subsequent loan to Ipswich leading up to short stays with Plymouth Argyle and Fleetwood in the 2017/18 campaign. In July 2018 he signed a two-year contract at Swindon and, after missing much of his first County Ground campaign with injury, things started to get worse.
After relegation to League Two, then-Robins manager Richie Wellens pulled Diagouraga away from the first-team photo early last season, limiting the midfielder to just two Papa John’s Trophy appearances to three months apart.
“It was very frustrating because I think it wasn’t really for football reasons,” he said. Sky Sports.
“I was asked to leave and go to another club this summer, which I refused, so it all went wrong from there, really. But I know that’s how football works. Some managers are going to like you, others are not really going to take you, but you still have to believe in yourself and I have always supported myself.
“As a footballer all you want to do is play regular football. So after going through a tough first half of the season all I wanted to do was play football again and just enjoy it. . “
Then an opportunity presented itself to Morecambe.
Either way, the decision to leave a team at the top of the league to join a scrapped team for their life at the other end would be confusing, but it was more than just football – and Diagouraga felt that something special was brewing.
On January 2 last year, his contract at Swindon was terminated by mutual agreement and his arrival at Mazuma Stadium was confirmed, sealing the reunion with manager Derek Adams, whom he had played under while at Plymouth. .
“I have worked with the manager before and I knew we weren’t going to fall last year,” he continues.
“In the pre-season, with the kind of players we signed, I actually told our captain [Sam Lavelle] that we would be in the top 7 this year, with the manager and the know-how that we had in our team. I knew we were going to have a good chance.
“He [Adams] deserves a lot of credit. He’s a good man-manager and I have a lot of time and respect for him. I don’t think another manager would have given Morecambe access to the play-off final. He knows how to win and he is a winner. He’s promoted Ross County and Plymouth so he knows how to get results and promotions. “
It says a lot that, under Adams this season, Diagouraga has made 42 appearances in all competitions, which is the most he has recorded for a club since the 2014/15 campaign.
“It shows that I am settled and that I have a manager who trusts me,” he says frankly. “When you have that, it gives you new life.
“I know if I play soccer regularly I will do well, so it’s about focusing on myself. I’m glad I had the chance to come here and play soccer again.”
Perhaps it is a testament to his experience that Diagouraga’s words last year proved prophetic.
Not only did Morecambe retain their EFL club status when the Ligue 2 table was decided on a points-per-game basis, but they finished fourth this quarter and had a chance for automatic promotion until the very last day of the game. regular. season.
It wasn’t to be at the end, as Cheltenham, Cambridge and Bolton placed them in the top three, meaning Adams’ men were forced to settle for a place in the playoffs, where they defeated Tranmere 3-2. meet in the semifinals to prepare for Monday’s play-off against Newport.
“After missing the top three we wanted to make sure we gave ourselves the best opportunity to always get promoted and now we’re only 90 minutes away,” he says.
“Tranmere made it extremely difficult, especially in their place. We had to take a lot of pressure and stick to the game plan, but once we won there I was pretty confident we would do the Work at home.
“It was very nice to have the fans again and the buzz around the stadium. The energy helped us and when we were under pressure they helped us cross the line.
“This has been the story of our season. Nothing has been easy and we had to work for every point we have and we had to dig deep every time. It has become the norm for us. We know every point. game will be tough and we know we have to dig deep to get results. “
But having missed the play-offs twice with Brentford and also suffered a loss at Wembley twice during his stint with the Bees, this is nothing new for Diagouraga.
“In the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final in 2011 I was sent off and we lost – I won’t forget that. Then a few years later we were so close to getting the automatic seats and missed a penalty against Doncaster in the last minute of the season, then making it to the final against Yeovil and losing was heartbreaking.
“In 2015 we lost to Middlesbrough in the semifinals of the Championship play-offs. That season they were our shadow team. We always played really well against them but they were well organized and hit us on the block. -attack, which has worked during the season and in the play-offs.
“I remember the first leg it was 1-1 and we were in the lead. They took out a striker, brought in a defender and he ended up scoring a winner in the 90th minute on a free kick. I lost twice and hope to be lucky for the third time. “
As haunting as these memories are, Diagouraga is well aware that he can use them as a force for good.
“For players who have never been to Wembley I can tell them what to expect because sometimes you can get there and play occasionally rather than the game.
“It’s important to let people know that if we give the best of ourselves and play the way we do, we won’t have any regrets in the end. As a player my age, I think it is t is a duty to pass on this experience.
“For a club that has never been in League One, I think if we could send them back there it would be a huge achievement for everyone connected with the club. It would be up there with my highlights from career, especially after the last few years where I haven’t played so much. To actually do it this year would be amazing. “