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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor