Clevid Dikamona: I waited long enough for Hearts - Kilmarnock deal is right for me
He waited all summer for a call from Hearts which never came. Clevid Dikamona instead joined Kilmarnock last month – just before football’s trademark irony rendered an extra centre-back essential at Tynecastle Park due to John Souttar’s Achilles rupture.
Dikamona spent two seasons in Edinburgh before cancelling his contract in March. He returned home to Normandy with his family after coronavirus forced football into shutdown. He would have happily rejoined Hearts this year but did not receive any contact.
The discussion is academic now, for Dikamona is focused firmly on maximising a one-year contract in Ayrshire. He made his Kilmarnock debut in Saturday’s 4-0 victory against Dundee United and is eager to justify a second spell in the Scottish Premiership.
“I signed for one year. I think the club don't want to take risks with the pandemic situation,” he told the Evening News. “The main thing is not the money I will earn here or the contract I have, it's about taking the opportunity to come back to Scotland and play football.
“I was contacted by many agents about Kilmarnock. I was focused on keeping my family safe in France at that time and, if I am honest, it was not my first choice at that time to come to Kilmarnock.
“Everyone knows I was maybe waiting for a move from Hearts. The deal with Kilmarnock was done very late. My first choice, if I was to come back to Scotland, was to go back to Hearts. A lot of things happen and now I am here.”
A lot of things do happen unexpectedly, including another gut-wrenching injury for Souttar. He underwent surgery and is expected to miss six months, so Hearts now need to sign a central defender.
“That kind of thing happens a lot in football and in life. I think I waited long enough for a move from Hearts,” said Dikamona. “I was free all summer. I don't think the new manager took the time to know about me. That's okay for me.
"I will keep this club in my heart for a long time but sometimes in football you have to move forward. That's why I signed for Kilmarnock. The manager, Alex Dyer, took the time to call me and show me that he trusts me. That was really important for me to make my decision.”
The giant Congolese internationalist is already imposing himself in Ayrshire. He initially refused this interview request to wait until he had played for his new club, eager to ensure there was something worth discussing before speaking publicly.
Kilmarnock had played five games this season with no wins and no clean sheets. At the weekend, in their sixth fixture of the campaign against United, Dikamona made his debut by replacing the injured Stuart Findlay after 29 minutes. A resounding 4-0 triumph ensued.
“Maybe I'm a lucky guy, I don't know,” he laughed. “I will try to bring something positive to the Kilmarnock team. I tried to give my best all the time at Hearts and I will do the same here.
“When the manager and your team-mates trust you, then you must do everything for them. I hope I can give confidence to other people. I will be happy with that. It was probably better to wait until I had played before speaking.
“I was training alone with my fitness coach but when you start training with a team, it's different. It's normal that it would take some time to introduce me to the starting 11. I have no problem with that. The important part is the end of the season, not the beginning.”
He is one of several experienced heads in Dyer’s squad. Kirk Broadfoot, Gary Dicker, Chris Burke and Youssouf Mulumbu are similarly influential. And there is a familiar face for Dikamona in the shape of the on-loan Hearts goalkeeper Colin Doyle.
“To have these types of players is important. When you have difficult moments during the game, they will always have the right words to help you stay focused. That is great for the younger guys. We will need this experience during the season.”
What will they call him at Killie, though? At Tynecastle he was famously known as the self-proclaimed “Jambo Solder”. What now? Killer Soldier?
“Just Clevid will be enough,” he laughed. “The period I had at Hearts was a special period. You cannot bring this period to Kilmarnock. It's two different things. I am here as myself, just Clevid Dikamona.
“I will try to give my best all the time and try to be the best defender I can be. Nothing else. As a footballer, you want to play at the highest level you can. I want to help Kilmarnock to reach their goal and, if everyone gets their reward at the end, I'm sure I will get mine as well.”
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