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Quakers rebuild youths
DARLINGTON are continuing to work on rebuilding their squad as they prepare to start the season in the Northern League, but Martin Gray also has an eye on the club’s youth ranks.
At the beginning of this week six senior players agreed to join Quakers, and Gray has also recruited two teenagers to play in a new youth section.
The club’s under-18s side next season shall play in a regional college league, and the first to become part of the new team are Connor Lowes and Andrew White.
Both were in Quakers’ school of excellence last season, among a group considered by coaches to be the best in recent years, with more of their team-mates from last season expected to join them in the new set-up, but they were facing an uncertain future until Gray offered an opportunity to return to the club.
The end of Football League funding means the club are effectively starting the youth section from scratch having previously built a fine reputation for producing homegrown talent under Craig Liddle as head of youth.
The Darlington manager’s Martin Gray Football Academy runs a USA-style soccer scholarship at Greenfield Community College in Newton Aycliffe which is where Quakers’ youth team will be based while studying a for Btec level qualification.
Brian Atkinson, Gray’s assistant manager, coaches the students and Gray said: “I’m delighted to have an under- 18s youth structure in place.
“These are kids that Craig Liddle would’ve offered youth team contracts to, I’ve brought them in to become part of my Btec squad.
“There’s only four for the time being, I’m speaking to more over the next few days, and they will become our youth team because we need to get that up and running.
“It’s good news for them and their parents are absolutely buzzing. I spoke to Craig about them as well as Colin Galloway [club secretary] who has been in and around the club and knew the players as well.
“It’s great to put a smile on people’s faces, they’re delighted that they’re associated with the club again.”
As well as playing youth matches on midweek afternoons, Gray wants the teenagers to provide back-up for the senior squad.
He said: “There’s some 16- year-olds would’ve been in Darlington’s youth team next season that are top drawer and will be in my squad of 18.
“They’ll be involved in our pre-season programme. I’m very much about youth and I want to give kids, at the right time, an opportunity.”