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Quakers: We won the survival fight, now the football begins
IN 1900 Darlington were crowned champions of the Northern League.
After eight turbulent months which has seen the club placed in administration, taken over by its fans and relegated four divisions, the Quakers will this afternoon begin a campaign to again top the world’s second oldest league after a gap of 113 years.
Whether the club achieves its aim of promotion at the first attempt or not, Denis Pinnegar, chairman of Darlington FC 1883, the community company formed to run the club, believes fans should be looking forward to the coming season with some excitement.
“The club was 20 minutes from going out of business back in May when we bought it and fans should feel immensely proud of what they have achieved in saving it,” he added.
Mr Pinnegar said the overriding emotion he expected to feel today when the team takes on Bishop Auckland was one of relief.
“My feelings will be intense relief mixed with huge optimism and overwhelming gratitude to those who helped us get where we are.
“Those motions are coupled with a sense of rededication that there is still huge amounts of work to be done.”
With 750 season tickets sold, £40,000 taken by the club shop in three weeks, a successful corporate sponsorship scheme, and tens of thousands of pounds invested into DFC 1883 and the community interest company (CIC) by fans, Mr Pinnegar said the club was now on a sound financial footing for the coming season.
Asked if he regretted saying in May that the club would achieve promotion back to the football league in three years, he said not.
The FA’s demotion to the North League means this is not possible, even if the club is promoted every season Mr Pinnegar said: “If we said it would take us ten years to get back to the football league, then I guess it would take us ten years – if it takes two years longer than I said, then so be it.”
Despite taking time to acknowledge the achievements of recent months, Mr Pinnegar said he was determined that the club would continue to strive to reach its goals of returning to the football league and finding a permanent home in Darlington.
A number of options for a new ground had been proposed and these would be looked at in more detail now that the season was under way, he said.
The other major aim is to build the CIC, which is the majority shareholder in the club.
Mr Pinnegar said this work would now also be stepped up.
Win or lose today, the fact that the club is even playing should be reason enough for fans to celebrate.
DARLINGTON FC is looking to leave its recent troubles in the past when it squares up against North-East rivals Middlesbrough and Hartlepool at a charity golf contest organised by a former manager.
The Quakers have signed up to take part in a competition organised by David Hodgson that will raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance Service. The event takes place on Wednesday, September 5, at Rockliffe Hall, near Darlington.
As well as the North-East trio, Carlisle United has entered, and more teams are expected to be announced next week.
Mr Hodgson said: “I’m delighted to have Darlington on board. The response from the region’s football clubs has been amazing. I just can’t wait for the day now and really hope we raise a lot of money for this fantastic cause.”
In recognition of their new status as a fan-owned club, Darlington was invited to enter a team for free.
Teams of four cost £500, which includes breakfast,18 holes of championship golf and a two-course evening meal by Rockliffe’saward-winning chef Kenny Atkinson.
Breakfast is from 10.30am, golf starts at 1pm, and the evening meal will commence at 7.30pm. Following the meal, there will be entertainment from Kevin Connelly, an auction and a raffle.
Sponsors are needed for prizes throughout the day, including longest drives and nearest the pins, plus team and individual trophies.
Also, any auction or raffle prizes would be wecomed.
For more information, contact Ruth Davey, at the Great North Air Ambulance, on 01325-487263 or email ruth@greatnorth airambulance.co.uk