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Liddle: Time is right to move on
AFTER six months of turmoil in charge at Darlington, Craig Liddle admits he is relishing the prospect of working at Sunderland after it was announced he will become part of the coaching set-up at the Stadium of Light.
Liddle will join academy manager Ged McNamee’s team on June 11 as a development coach, working with the club’s full-time scholars.
The move brings to an end Liddle’s long association with Darlington, which has included over 300 playing appearances and four spells as caretaker manager.
He spent the second half of this season in charge at The Northern Echo Arena after Mark Cooper was sacked last October, but it was an emotionally charged period for the 40-year-old as the club battled through administration for a third time and faced going out of business.
He revealed in the final few weeks of last season that his future would lie away from the club, citing his desire to concentrate on the youth development side of the game.
The implementation of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) has prompted clubs around the country to expand their coaching teams and having applied for category 1 status, the Black Cats have moved to bring in Liddle.
“For me it’s a fantastic opportunity to develop my coaching career and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” Liddle said.
“I feel like I’ve proved myself at youth level with Darlington, so it felt right to make the step up and take the opportunity to work alongside some great youth coaches.
It’ll be a learning curve for me, but it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
“It’s an opportunity to work at one of the best set-ups in the North-East, if not the country. Their reputation for producing players is great, the facilities are brilliant and the staff they already have are great at what they do, so it’s a huge chance for me to work alongside them.
“It was a difficult decision to make, I was loyal to Darlington as a player and I feel I have been as a manager as well, but this time I couldn’t turn down the chance to work at a club like Sunderland. It was a no brainer for me really.”
Having been highly successful during his time at the head of Darlington’s youth set-up, Liddle has gained a glowing reputation.
He has nurtured the likes of Michael Smith, Dan Burn and Curtis Main, who have all gone on to secure contracts at Premier League or Football League clubs, and now Liddle has got his big move.
Despite months of uncertainty surrounding Darlington, Liddle worked tirelessly in a bid to keep the club running and was present when community company Darlington FC 1883 agreed a deal to take the club out of administration earlier this month.
And although he won’t be around to see the club fight its way back, Liddle insists he will continue to monitor events from afar, whatever division Quakers are playing next season, with an FA announcement due on Friday.
He said: “I’m still in contact with the guys at Darlington and they’ve kept me in the loop with what’s going on.
“They’ve got the right people at the top now and it’s a starting point for the club to get back where it should be.
The club means a lot to me and I hope they will climb up the leagues quickly and not before long, they’ll be back up there.
“I’ll still be in contact with the club and it’ll always be the first result I look out for on a Saturday.
“You never know, if they do get back up there and get the youth set-up up and running again I might come back one day.”