Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

From Wembley to Northern League; It Was a Dramatic Year at Our Non-League Clubs Especially at Darlington Where Freefall Sadly Became the Norm, Writes Steve Brown

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

From Wembley to Northern League; It Was a Dramatic Year at Our Non-League Clubs Especially at Darlington Where Freefall Sadly Became the Norm, Writes Steve Brown

Article excerpt

IF a week is said to be a long time in politics, what a difference a year makes in North East non-league football. What a difference the past few days have had.

Recent seasons for our grassroots sides have been bountiful, but this one just gone was eventful even by those thrilling, dizzying standards.

Twelve months ago, Darlington won the FA Trophy and not long after were among the bookmakers' dark horses for promotion.

Who, then, might have foreseen what has followed? Who, given the previous decade, couldn't see it coming? A third spell in administration in around ten years finally did for the Quakers and not even the introduction of the 18-hour working day - by, singularly, Craig Liddle - was enough to halt their slide.

At least it was not into oblivion. The decision against folding and returning as a phoenix club remains debatable, especially in light of the FA's vague classification of the club as 'new', and the consequences, namely demotion to the STL Northern League, thereof. But those supporters responsible for keeping it afloat deserve immense credit, and for that support to sustain. Will it? I remain unconvinced, but less so following the appointment of Martin Gray - a man with Darlington in his heart, the Northern League in his past and good men in the likes of Brian Atkinson, Sean Gregan, Tony Norman and Harry Dunn at his side.

"I am delighted to be given the opportunity to play a key role in getting Darlington back where it belongs after what has been a very difficult period for the fans and the club," said Gray, still aiming to run his blossoming Martin Gray Football Academy concurrently.

"If the fans continue to back the club financially I am confident we can put together an attractive and competitive team. My career started in the Northern League and it is a scene I know very well.

"There are a lot of good teams in the Northern League and we will have to treat it with the respect that it deserves, but we will be aiming to put together a team which will challenge at the very top of the league and the aim is promotion at the first attempt."

The remit at Gateshead, albeit not at their first stab, is similar. …

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