Fan's Eye View: Darlington: Darlo's faithful few waiting for worm to turn

IT MIGHT seem odd for someone born and bred in Teesside to have ended up watching a Third Division football club, but supporting Darlington FC does have its advantages. The Quakers, as they are nicknamed, or Darlo, as they are more commonly known, do make you appreciate when the good times arrive. Not for us the constant craving or ceaseless selfish quest for trophies and league championships - survival first by selling players and anything else on top of that has always been very much a bonus.

Geographically, Darlington stands 15 miles from their Premiership neighbours Middlesbrough, whose training ground at Hurworth is closer to Feethams than the Riverside. The past decade has probably been one of the most contrasting in the club's history. The fanzine I edit, Mission Impossible, has faithfully observed the goings on at Feethams for the best part of it and in March of next year a 10th anniversary bash will take place in the club's redeveloped pounds 2.5m East Stand.

Back in March 1989 such a sight would have been unthinkable, the club were battling to avoid relegation to the Conference and it was not until that month Darlo won a home game in the League in '88-89. All to no avail as we blew it big time in a crunch six-pointer with Colchester and the non-League trapdoor beckoned. However, fired by Richard Corden's money and Brian Little's inspiration the Quakers returned to their rightful place one year later.

Since then we have had one promotion, as Division Four champions in '90- 91, a trip to the Third Division play-off final at Wembley against Plymouth in May '95, one relegation and three further attempts to drop out of the League again.

There is only so much money the club can afford to spend without going out of business. There is a community feel among the fans that tends to get lost the higher up the League you go, and it is this spirit that keeps you going in the leaner times. Hence the reason why I can sympathise with supporters of Chester, Hull and Oxford United - it could so easily happen to us.

Many of the things that attracted me to Feethams in the first place have since disappeared under the weight of the Taylor Report - no longer can the fans change ends. But one piece of trivia that sets Darlo apart from all the existing Football League clubs is that Feethams is the only current ground that shares its facilities with a cricket club.

This season, under director of coaching Dave Hodgson's management (in his second spell), the signings of Craig Liddle (Middlesbrough), Gary Bennett (Scarborough) and Marco Gabbiadini inspired the team to a five- match unbeaten run that took us to the very pinnacle of the Third Division. Since then, however, the sale of Canadian defender, Jason De Vos, to Dundee United for pounds 400,000, under the jurisdiction of the club's owner Mike Peden, a Stratford-upon-Avon property developer, has contributed to the team's slide into mid-table - not helped by a couple of home postponements due to the state of the Feethams pitch.

Apparently the new stand was constructed above an old sewer which has since caused drainage problems. Advice came from a most unlikely source, Manchester United, who had been having problems of their own. The signing of 500lb worth of worms was the result. Hopefully they will have disappeared by the time we play United's arch-enemies, Manchester City, in the second round of the FA Cup.

Our neighbours Middlesbrough may rely on their foreign imports to attract the crowds at the Riverside but Darlo have their own overseas stars thanks to Hodgy's connections. One of them, the Austrian Mario Dorner, averaged a goal every two games last season. The former Sunderland player Gabbiadini has Italian blood in him.

One of the most progressive developments at Feethams has occurred via the club's own supporters. We now have a supporters' club, three fanzines, an exiles' organisation called DAFTS (Darlington Away Far Travelling Supporters), and a thriving online community that consists of official and unofficial websites, message boards and a discussion group calling itself Virtual Quakers. Not bad when you consider our attendances average around 4,000.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game