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Rough guide to... Darlington
27 July 2004
In a nutshell
A north-east team that plays in black and white stripes. But they're not Newcastle United. Or Grimsby Town. Obviously. They've been up, but not as high as either Toon or Town, and they've been down, lower then both of them. They've also been around a bit, having recently got a shiny new stadium. Oh yeah, and they are in administration.
Their finest hour
The Quakers have few honours to their name: three league titles and one cup. The cup is one I have never heard of - the Division Three (North) Cup - and was 70 years ago so I don't really care. Their first championship win was Division Three (North) in 1924-25, and the following season they achieved their highest ever end-of-season placing, 15th in Division Two.
But that is all niff-naff and trivia compared to the glory days of the late 1980s and early 1990s. During the 1989-90 campaign Darlington did enough to gain promotion from the then GM Vauxhall Conference and followed it up the next season by topping the marvellously named Division Four. Which is where they find themselves once more. However, that's not the best of it. Those back-to-back promotions looks all the more impressive when viewed alongside the relegations that went either side of them. In four seasons they finished top twice and bottom twice, ending up right back where they started from. Which, in fact, is where they are now. I'd rate that above finishing 15th in Division Two - wouldn't you?
I'll gloss over their Wembley visits because they keep losing there.
George Reynolds. The former safecracker - sorry - saviour of the club is now despised by many a fan, and rightly so. Although I never went, Feethams looks like it was a nice ground. A typically humble lower-league stadium, but suitable for the club's needs. But after paying off debts of around £5m in 1999, Reynolds flicked through a brochure of new stadia, picked the design he liked most and started building it. Does a Division Four/Division Three/League Two side need a 25,000 all-seater stadium? Not really, but they were getting one and it was being named after dear old Georgie.
So the Reynolds Arena was built, Darlo moved in and so did the fans. For a couple of weeks, just to see what it was like. Not many fans in a big expensive stadium can only lead to deep shit, and on 23 December 2003 the club was placed into administration, where it remains. Merry Christmas, eh?
A few weeks later Reynolds quit the club in an attempt to get the fans and local business back onside. Oh yeah - and a few months back George and a couple of his mates were picked up by the rozzers in a car packed with cash. They were nicked on suspicion of money laundering and Reynolds lost the fight to get back his £500k. Aww diddums, as the Darlo fans may well say.
As for other clubs that Darlington fans despise, it's probably the usual mix of Hartlepool, Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle. I can't be arsed to research it properly but it's as good a guess as any. You know what that lot are like up there.
In a word – shite. Well, actually, a better word would be administration: something that is never good for a football club. Unless you're a bunch of fucking cheats like Leicester City. Darlo flirted with relegation for a good portion of last season, eventually finishing 18th, eight points ahead of the relegation places. They were also crap in every cup competition they had the chance to enter, losing 2-0 to Hornchurch in the FA Cup.
Who's the Dadi?
I can tell you who isn't the Dadi, and that's Michael Reddy. At the time of writing the front page of Darlo website The Tinshed carries a decent article about how the lad won't be signing for the Quakers after all. Instead he will be lining up against them in the black and white stripes of Grimsby Town. Hurrah!
Another striker it isn't is Faustino Asprilla, who was being courted by George Reynolds during his time at the club. Asprilla, who of course used to play up the road at Newcastle, claimed to be interesting in signing for Darlington, right up until the minute he got on a plane and legged it as far away from there as possible without telling anyone at the club he had changed his mind. Whoops - must have slipped his mind.
Enough of the players that aren't going to rip Town to shreds next year; what about those who will? Clark Keltie sounds like a useful young midfielder with a good eye for a pass, and has attracted a lot of attention from other clubs. Craig Russell adds experience to the front line, having played for the likes of Sunderland and Man City. One thing he's not, though, is prolific. Phew. [Talk about tempting fate - Ed.]
And that's about it, for there are very few strikers currently on the books at the Reynolds Arena. I can tell you, though, that ex-Middlesbrough defender Curtis Fleming is talking about signing up with Darlo. He ought to bolster their back line a bit. Even if he doesn't sign, Matthew Clarke should be able to hold the defence together.
Clubs in administration normally have a tricky time. Lack of cash means lack of new faces as the money for signing-on fees and wages just isn't there. So it's largely as you were for Darlington. They have picked up a few injuries in pre-season, including trialist Alan Harrison's broken ankle, which won't help matters. It's a small squad but the manager, David Hodgson, knows the club as this is his third spell in charge, He'll save them from the drop but he won't have an easy season. I'm going to go for 17th.
Darlington Football Club had an FA Cup debut to forget, largely because they got utterly stuffed. The first game in the legendary cup competition ended in an 8-0 hiding - dished out by a small club named Grimsby Town. Back when we were good, obviously.
The club got their nickname of the Quakers because Feethams was built so close to a railway line that passing trains made the whole stadium shake. Perhaps they should have been called the Shoddily Constructed Stadiums instead.
As with all clubs these days, Darlington have an official site, which is the same poxy Premier TV crap as all the others really. The Tinshed is a good little site with a lot of information and is nicely laid out. DAFTS is a well put together site written by a bunch of exiled fans. The map on the front page is a nice touch.
The Rivals network weighs in with Darlo Uncovered, but to be honest the flashing adverts did my head in, especially the one alongside the main story, and I couldn't be arsed to have a good look round. But the award for the worst Darlo website design has to go to Darlo Till I Die. I can't find a URL for the site, only a link from The Tinshed which works in that annoying way where the address bar in your browser doesn't change regardless of which page you view. DTID isn't really worth a look at all, anyway, other than to see the truly dire background, which will give you a migraine. The English is poor even in the days of txt-spk. In fact it looks like it has been knocked up in half an hour by an eight-year-old. Who is blind.