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A whole new ball game for Quakers
Darlington's new beginning starts today when they start Northern League life with a trip to their home from home.
They kick-off at Bishop Auckland's Heritage Park, the venue Quakers will be using as their base during 2012-13, having left the Arena behind.
The match is as an away fixture, but Darlington fans will out-number Bishops' by around three to one as they witness the beginning of a new era.
The Northern League promises to be a novel experience, and for Martin Gray this season represents his first foray as a manager.
Thirteen years since joining he club as a dogged midfielder - brought in by David Hodgson - he takes the reins for the first time and it's been a long time coming.
Always a leader on the pitch, after his playing days ended due to injury he occupied various coaching roles at the Arena, starting with the youth team and progressing to becoming assistant to both Hodgson and Dave Penney.
He followed Penney to Oldham in 2009 and since leaving the Latics in 2010 has focused on the Martin Gray Football Academy.
Penney this summer set up his soccer school in the Yorkshire area, while his former number two makes his managerial bow.
Hodgson and Penney are among a number of Gray's former managers to offer their best wishes and advice.
"I've always wanted to become a manger," said Gray. I worked under Denis Smith, David Hodgson and then Dave Penney, plus one or two other managers, Malcolm Crosby, and learnt a lot from them all and now it's time to put all those years of experience into practice.
"They've all been on to wish me luck. They've been very positive, saying things like 'you're the right man for the job' and David Hodgson has been very supportive.
"They know what I'm a about, they know how hard I work and that I won't take no for answer and that I want to be successful.
"I always had the ambition to manage my own team and there couldn't be a better team to manage than Darlington because it's in my blood.
"I first came to the club in 1999 and I think of it no differently than Craig Liddle would. I'm proud and privileged to have the opportunity to take the club forward."
Although Spennymoor Town are many observers' tip to clinch the title, and move up, there is a pressure to ensure Darlington are involved in the promotion race.
With that in mind, Gray has assembled a team of notable North-East non-League players, though the manager admits that his squad could evolve.
Only seven are under contract so far. Gary Brown, Adam Nicholls, David Dowson, Chris Emms and the Purewal brothers have put pen to paper, meaning they are unable to sign for a rival with seven days' notice.
Gray added: "We had the option to look at all of the players in pre-season and that was an important time because we were putting 18 or so players together from scratch.
"It's been a positive that they've had a hard pre-season, but some good team performances as well as individual performances.
"The nature of this level is that your squad will change during the season. It doesn't if you put everyone under contract, but there's no way I was going to put the first 18 players here under contract. That would be too much of a gamble.
"I'd like to think that what we're going to do and how we treat players will be enough to make players want to stay, whether they've got a contract or not."
Having taken delivery of their new The Northern Echo-sponsored kit this week, Darlington be wearing their black and white hooped home strip today.
* Today's match is an away fixture so Darlington season tickets will not be valid.
* Martin Gray has a number of options available to him so there's sure to be some disappointed players who are not selected. Keeper Chris Porter has had a shoulder injury and safely came through training on Wednesday, but Jack Norton will start.
Quakers: Norton; Harrison, Brown, Arjun Purewal, Smith; Emms, Ellison, Scott, Amar Purewal; Dowson, Reay. Subs (from): Norton, Gray, Gregan, Clough, Richardson, Johnson, Clarke