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Darlington's pre-season begins
Darlington fans today have their first opportunity to see the club’s raft of new players in action when they play at Whitby Town (3pm).
Manager Martin Gray has brought in 16 players since being appointed at the end of May, and most will feature in the club’s first pre-season friendly since the off-the-field turmoil saw the club drop four divisions.
Ahead of the new season, in the Ebac Northern League, Gray has built a squad almost from scratch with only left-back Phil Gray remaining from last season.
“That’s why we’ve booked in so many friendlies, so that the players can gel and get to know each other,” said Gray, whose team played a behind-closed doors game on Wednesday evening against Wearside League club, Easington Colliery.
“We’re happy with what we’ve recruited and training has been very good, the lads have been very positive.
“We had a double session last Saturday, morning and afternoon, that’s not something that I think is done too often at this level.
“But it’ll be good to get some games played so that they can all get used to each other because we are a new team.”
Today’s game is the first of two in three days with Darlington also playing at Northallerton Town on Monday evening (7.30pm) and Gray will field a strong side in each fixture.
Among his most notable recruits are twins Amar and Arjun Purewal who were both previously at Durham City in Division One of the Evo-Stick League, a division below Whitby for whom Darlington striker Jamie Clarke played for last season.
Also having made the move from Durham to Darlington are defender Gary Brown and striker David Dowson, but Brown is missing today due to a family commitment.
Goalkeeper Chris Porter is also unavailable so Gray will give a game to Jack Norton who is among a handful of trialists currently with the club. He came through the ranks at Darlington before being released in 2006.
Two more former Quakers, winger Josh Gray and midfielder Adrian Webster, have been training with the team and both will take part today.
Because the club’s new kit, sponsored by The Northern Echo, is not ready yet, Quakers will wear last season’s strip at the Turnbull Ground.
*Darlington's first home game of the season, scheduled for August 21, may be moved back 24 hours.
Ebac Northern League chairman Mike Amos has revealed that the match against Marske United could be played on August 22 to avoid clashing with Middlesbrough's home game versus Burnley.
The game will be Quakers' first as tennants at Bishop Auckland's Heritage Park, although they play their lanndlords in the season-opener on August 18.