Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DST to 80360 or email us
Gray pens five-year deal at Darlington
Martin Gray has outlined his long-term plans for Darlington after pledging his future to the club by penning a new five-year deal.
Assistant manager Brian Atkinson and coach Sean Gregan have also agreed new deals covering the same length of time, while talks with Quakers' other backroom are planned.
The manager has been in talks with Quakers' hierachy since the end of the season, when Darlington won the Northern League title in record-breaking style during what was Gray's first year at the helm.
He became the club's manager a year ago and the first campaign under his leadership saw Quakers record 122 points and score 145 goals to win promotion to the Evo-Stik First Division North - the first step back towards the Football League.
While a return to the Football League, from which Darlington were relegated in 2010, remains a long way off, the new deal, Gray believes, is a demonstration that he is committed to the cause.
He said: "I'm really proud to be given this length of contract. It's great for myself and the staff, and they are the key to all of this.
"The most important thing for me was having the right staff on board and they have played a massive part in our success. It's a massive commitment, a five-year contract, from myself, Brian and Sean."
Gray, who yesterday saw defender Joe Tait join Gateshead, will meet supporters this morning at House of Fraser in Darlington (9.30-11am).
Fans have the opportunity to have their picture taken with the Northern League trophy.
The manager added: "We've got a plan in progress; we've got a five-year plan just like any business should have.
"We can't run on one-year contracts, we need to show our long-term commitment to the club. This is an indication to the players and fans that we're trying to do something, that we're trying to take the club somewhere.
"I'm here for the long-term, this is not just a job, and this is a sign of my dedication to the club and hopefully the fans will remain just as dedicated.
"At the back end of the season we sat down and discussed things. I didn't want to do anything until the season had finished, I didn't want to get distracted, I wanted to get the season over and done with. We've done that, we've sorted out the nitty gritty and we're ready to go now.
"Hopefully the fans can see the big commitment and will continue to show their great support as well in terms of season ticket sales."
Martin Jesper, Darlington's chief executive officer, said: "Martin's achievements last season were phenomenal and his commitment to the club for a five-year period is huge.
"We are demonstrating to the fans, the community, local businesses and sponsors that this club is being rebuilt on solid foundations and long-term relationships which lead to financial stability and opportunity, rather than short-term fixes that create nothing but uncertainty and speculation.
"Martin is fully aware of the financial constraints we have inherited, and must work within, and his understanding and commitment under those challenging circumstances are immense."
Gray's background in youth football is a key element in his approach to management. A desire to create a flow of local talent through the club's ranks into the first-team is chief among his long-term aims, something he was keen to stress last night.
He said: "I'm as much interested in our under-7s as I am the first team. Whether I'm still manager of this club in five years or not, this club has got a very strong foundation and that's my priority.
"We've got the under-18s up and running and the BTEC at Darlington College. We're in partnership with them to try to find future youth team players.
"As of this Wednesday we're holding trials for under-7s to under-16s throughout July. It's going to take time. We're not guaranteed to get the best kids in year one, but in two or three years the youth section should be stronger and the quality of football becoming stronger.
"To have a very good first team you need a strong youth section behind it. Craig Liddle had a strong youth team which brought through a lot of players for the first team and made some money when Dan Burn moved to Fulham.
"We need to try to recreate that, but it will take a long time and it's a matter of getting off the ground, which we are doing now.
"I have standards. Things have to be at the level I expect them to be, that's what I demand. Things have to be done right, from under-7s through to the first team, and if it's not I need to know and I'll change it.
"We're run like a professional club and to get back to the Football league we've got to have these standards in place."
* As well as Martin Gray, also available for supporters to meet this morning in Binns will be Brian Atkinson, Gary Brown and Steve Johnson.
Quakers' new kit design for next season will also be on show.
Fans are being asked to pick up an entry voucher from Quaker Retail in the indoor market before heading to Binns.
These vouchers are free of charge and will be limited, for security reasons, to the first 150 applications at Quaker Retail, which will open from 9am.