2:24pm Sunday 17th June 2012
By Craig Stoddart
DARLINGTON are rebuilding their youth set-up ahead of the coming season and are inviting youngsters to attend trials later this month.
Manager Martin Gray is keen on developing talented teenagers and maintaining Quakers' reputation for giving youth a chance, something which stood Darlington in good stead in recent seasons.
A stream of homegrown players were given an opportunity at first-team level, including Dan Burn, Curtis Main and Michael Smith who are now at Fulham, Middlesbrough and Charlton Athletic respectively while John McReady is also expected to move to a bigger club this summer.
Although Quakers have dropped into the Northern League, Gray wants to continue that trend of promoting local young talent and the first three teenagers to join the under-18s for next season are Connor Lowes, Sam Read and Andrew White.
They were in Darlington's centre of excellence last season, among a group considered by coaches to be the best in recent years, but due to the club's drop down the divisions they were facing an uncertain future until Gray offered an opportunity to return to the club.
They will play in a regional college league, playing in matches on midweek afternoons, while 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."
The Darlington manager runs the Martin Gray Football Academy, 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 Extended Diploma in sport.
Brian Atkinson, Gray's assistant manager, coaches the students.
Trials for a place in Quakers' youth team take place at Greenfield Community College on Saturday, June 30, 10.30am kick-off. For more details, contact Gray on 07738131914.
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