Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Reynolds Couldn't Crack It This Time

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Reynolds Couldn't Crack It This Time

Article excerpt

Byline: By Luke Edwards

From glory guy to vilification, George Reynolds' decision to quit as chairman of Darlington has apparently closed a colourful and turbulent chapter in the club's history. Luke Edwards reports.

IT seems a long time ago that George Reynolds walked around the pitch at Darlington's old home, Feethams, to a standing ovation from all four corners of the rusty and decaying ground. Reynolds was a local hero, a convicted safe cracker with a colourful personality and a vast personal fortune he had dipped into to help save the club from bankruptcy.

He was eccentric, his thin hair blowing in the breeze as he returned the applause of the club's small, but dedicated band of followers, stopping every couple of steps to embrace a new friend in the crowd.

An astute businessman, he was a loveable rogue who had overcome problems with illiteracy, trying to put something back into the local community from which he came.

Having risen from meagre beginnings, Reynolds' life, via a stay at her Majesty's Pleasure, had something of the classic rags to riches tale about it.

Having defied the odds in his personal life to make his millions, undoubtedly ruffling a few feathers along the way, it seemed Reynolds was keen to do the same with Darlington FC.

Just as he now rubbed shoulders with millionaires, he wanted the equally unfancied and unfashionable Quakers to do the same with the North-East footballing elite of Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

That was back in the spring of 1999 and Reynolds was greeted as a hero as he promised promotion from the Third Division in his first season in charge.

But his vision did not stop there - Darlington would rise and rise, he said, they would attract the best players, their charge up the leagues would be relentless and they would eventually move to a state-of-the-art, all-seater stadium on the outskirts of town which would be the envy of the Nationwide League.

It was compelling stuff and it brought a bounce and swagger to the club and the town. Sadly, after the stumble of failing to win a play-off final against Peterborough at Wembley in 2000, the swagger quickly became a limp.

Manager David Hodgson quit, days after star players Marco Gabbiadini and Neil Heaney also walked out, citing Reynolds' interference in team matters as one of the reasons for the sudden departure.

And, while their charismatic chairman continued to talk a good game, it never materialised on the pitch. The grumbling grew steadily louder with each poor result, former Sunderland defender Gary Bennett and former West Ham centre-back Tommy Taylor coming and going from the manager's office as Darlington remained in the basement division.

The supporters began to turn against their chairman, the major gripe being his insistence on building a new 25,000-capacity stadium for a club whose average gate was under 5,000 and whose first-team squad was getting nowhere near the promotion places. …

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