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Colin Todd - football's fire fighter

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Paul Fletcher | 13:05 UK time, Thursday, 27 August 2009

Question - what is unique about Darlington defender Ian Miller?

Answer - he was the sole Quaker to start both the final game of last season and the first one of the new campaign.

Miller and skipper Steve Foster were the only senior players that remained at Darlington over the summer following a torrid few months that started when the cash-strapped Quakers entered administration in February.

George Houghton, the chairman when the club went into administration, pumped money into the club to ensure Darlington could complete their fixtures last season but, nonetheless, players did not receive their full pay, manager Dave Penney left for Oldham and a lot of the their non-football staff were made redundant.

Newcastle might have monopolised the crisis-club headlines but Darlington, 36 miles down the A1, have given their North East rivals an unwanted run for their money.

Darlington boss Colin ToddColin Todd had a busy summer completely rebuilding the squad at Darlington

Colin Todd was brought in as manager in late May and was quickly made aware of the extent of the problems.

"It was very grave and serious in terms of what might happen to the club - people were expecting the worse," Todd told me.

"When I walked in what hit me was the state of the pitch. There was no groundsman and it had not been touched since the end of the previous season. It was in very poor condition."

The turf at the 25,500 seater Darlington Arena might have served as an apt metaphor for the condition of the club in general.

Last summer the Quakers had assembled a large and expensive squad by League Two standards as they went all out for promotion.

The dream proved to be unsustainable and the mandatory 10-point deduction that followed administration ended any hopes of going up.

I spoke to various people at different League Two clubs at the time and sympathy seemed to be thin on the ground, the prevailing view being that Houghton's Darlington had lived beyond their means (with a rumoured monthly wage bill of £270,000 for the playing staff) in an attempt to give them an advantage and should now suffer the consequences.

Todd found himself having to pick up the pieces. It was a huge task.

When he arrived the club was still in administration and its the remaining players were free to sign for other clubs.

"I had a meeting with the eight or nine senior players that were left, but that figure dwindled down to just two - Miller and Foster," said Todd, who told me he was not paid in full for the first few months because of the financial predicament at the club.

Todd, who lives in nearby Chester-le-Street, quickly persuaded Houghton to re-employ the groundsman (whose salary was initially funded by the chairman because the club was not in a position to employ anyone).

Much more difficult was the task of constructing a new squad. Todd could not offer a new player a contract until the club came out of administration (this eventually happened the week before the season started) and was restricted by a wage bill that was roughly a third the size of last season's.

He had to renegotiate the contracts of both Miller and Foster, recalling that: "I had to be very positive with them."

Thankfully for Darlington, Todd, who had been in charge at Danish side Randers until the start of 2009, is no stranger to managing in adversity.

During the 60-year-old's largely successful spell as assistant manager to Bruce Rioch at Middlesbrough in the late 80s, the doors to Ayresome Park had been locked by the official receiver and the club was close to bankruptcy.

At Bradford, Todd stepped up from assistant to the role of manager after the departure of Bryan Robson in June 2004 - a period when the Yorkshire club was adjusting to the chastening reality of life after the Premier League.

He had a tough rebuilding job at Valley Parade. As with the current situation at Darlington, the club were in administration and had a threadbare squad.

But Todd, who has also managed Bolton, Swindon and Derby, is in no doubt his current role is his most arduous.

Colin Todd had a difficult task after taking over from Bryan Robson at BradfordColinTodd took over at troubled Bradford after Bryan Robson left the club

"It has been very, very difficult to put the jigsaw together," he said.

Todd seems to have the gritty, phlegmatic personality necessary to stay afloat in choppy waters and possesses a nice line in understatement. When I asked him what it is like trying to build virtually an entirely new squad during a summer, he replied: "It keeps your mind active."

He is adamant the key to wading through all the problems and restrictions at a club in administration is remaining a positive outlook and sticking strictly to your budget.

Todd had to reassure backroom staff, such as the physio and kit man, all of whom had been made redundant, that they had a future at the club.

And after persuading Miller and Foster to stay, the manager had to set about persuading players to disregard the uncertainty swirling around Darlington and sign for him.

Todd used his network of contacts and own knowledge of the lower leagues to quickly identify available players that the club might be able to afford.

Dean Windass turned down an offer from Port Vale to accept a player/coach role at the club while a spate of experienced professionals such as Lee Thorpe, Chris Lumsdon, Jeff Smith, Paul Arnison and Mark Bower agreed to join.

Most were running down contracts at their previous club and were guaranteed wages until their deals expired. It meant they would not go unpaid over the summer before signing formal contracts with their new club once it had come out of administration.

Todd also drafted several young players - Nick Liversedge, Curtis Main, Josh Gray, Dan Riley and Danny Groves - into his senior squad.

With Jamie Chandler and David Dowson signing from Sunderland on loan - the manager has fulfilled his first mission of building a squad.

The day before the new season started, Darlington finally left administration, with new owner Raj Singh completing his takeover at the club.

But footballing fairytales are in short supply and it is obvious Todd still has an awful lot of work to do.

Darlington lost 3-1 at Aldershot on the opening day of the season and followed that with a narrow Carling Cup defeat to Leeds.

The Quakers then lost to Bury, Crewe and Port Vale in League Two.

They are currently bottom of the table - propping up the entire Football League - though the situation might not be quite so bad but for two crucial penalty misses, against Bury and Port Vale.

Nearby Newcastle might be managerless and up for sale, but out of their travails they have at least retained a quality squad.

Darlington now also have a team to put on the field - and although they might be struggling, at the end of last season it was far from certain they would have enough players to at least try to compete.

"A lot of people thought it would not happen - but you have to make things happen," said the Quakers manager.

And having got over the first hurdle, Todd now has to make sure his team start picking up some points.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    proving to be an inept manager then.

  • Comment number 2.

    I have no particular feelings towards Darlington, possitive or negative, but I want to wish Colin Todd and his staff the best of luck.

    Its not nice to see historical local clubs from the lower leagues disappear. I worry we will eventually see such teams being be replaced with teams with company names. This trend is already happening in the non-leagues.

  • Comment number 3.

    Best of luck to Colin Todd. Life as a manager in football is rarely the fairytale job that most people think, though at the league 2 level many managers are faced with near impossible tasks just to keep teams playing every week. Money talks in football these days and it's pretty sad to see so many teams with long histories struggling so much.

  • Comment number 4.

    I worry we will eventually see such teams being be replaced with teams with company names. This trend is already happening in the non-leagues.
    ------

    What teams are these exactly? I might not be going far enough down the system here but the only ones I know of are Vauxhall Motors (which started off as a works team in the 1960's, similar history to most traditional teams from the 1800's in that regards) and the Met Police team.

  • Comment number 5.

    What teams are these exactly? I might not be going far enough down the system here but the only ones I know of are Vauxhall Motors

    I can only think of Airbus UK who play in the Welsh league, can't think of any others.

    As to Colin Todd, I wish him the best of luck. For clubs like Darlington, the riches of the Premier league are a million miles away, and while they need to be run on a good financial basis, it's a shame they don't get a bit more support when they do get in trouble.

  • Comment number 6.

    It's a shame that in the same league we have Darlington and then Notts County. In Canad'a national sport Hockey we have a salary cap so matter how rich the owner the team cannot spend more on wages than another. Perhaps if this were implemented in the lower leagues then none of this would ahppen. But then again with Darlington we're seeing the same as happend at son many other clubs, the poor descisions of previous owner causing such damage. On FM I've got darlington to the premier league. They should of hired me and we'd be all good.

  • Comment number 7.

    He is a terrible manager any way

  • Comment number 8.

    I disagree with the point made by Chewbazza, the reasons why football is a struggle for clubs at that level is that once they get their sugar daddy in but have no plan B inb case things (as they invariably do) go wrong.

    If the clubs ran themselves sensibly, not paying over the odds for players and not building a ridiculously large groung they will never fill then the game will be healthier.

    Sorry I have all the sympathy in the world for Darlington fans but I'm not suprised in the slightest.

  • Comment number 9.

    Godd luck to Toddy at Darlo. He will get them playing good football in time just as he did at Bolton.I'd swap him for Megson now if thats on offer by the way.

  • Comment number 10.

    i agree with chewbazza's point, the smaller clubs in the English game are struggling because larger clubs (premier league and Championship) are demanding large prices for players that are not good enough for the top two tiers in english football. I feel sorry for darlington and their fans and wish them all of the luck in the world but they will not be the last club to end up in this position and have done well to atleast get a side out for this season

  • Comment number 11.

    I was impressed by Colin Todd's matter of factness as he discussed his very busy summer. I got the distinct impression he has a level head on his shoulders and is not the type to get too stressed without due cause.

    Having said that, he sure could do with his team picking up a few points.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Darlington are suffering from previous years of poor management by the board. As a supporter of a less fancied club in the football league i have absolutely no sympathy for them. They spent money which they didnt have and are suffering the consequences of not gaining promotion. It irks me that clubs like Leeds, Southampton, etc go in to administartion and then months later are allowed to sign players for vast amounts of money. Clubs who abide by FA guidelines and operate within their own budgets are left to wonder how on earth they are allowed. As you say though Fletch, it is ultimately the fans that are the ones who suffer.

  • Comment number 14.

    In response to the point made by NottsCCCziggy, clubs like Darlington have been pillaging the non-league world getting players for free from clubs who have invested time and money in coaching them. This has been going on for many a season creating a dog eat dog environment where all supporters are losing out. To cry that large clubs are destroying their football is extremely crass statement to make.

    The world of football does not cease at the bottom of (in old money) the 4th Division.

  • Comment number 15.

    Who cares if he's a poor manager - he was one of the finest defenders to of ever graced the game!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    I was pleased to see Penguin's response. Colin Todd was one of the finest footballers I've ever seen, as well.

    And - correct me if my memory is wrong, Wik doesn't have it, but I think he broke his leg at the height of his career at Sunderland, nobody near, and the crowd went silent so you could hear a pin drop. 27 caps doesn't start to value him. Would have been an England great - and maybe modern injury treatment could have saved that
    As an Everton supporter, I have to say I can't remember him playing for us.
    You that call him a crap manager will be forgotten long before he is.

  • Comment number 17.

    11. At 7:49pm on 27 Aug 2009, Paul Fletcher - BBC Sport wrote:

    I was impressed by Colin Todd's matter of factness as he discussed his very busy summer. I got the distinct impression he has a level head on his shoulders and is not the type to get too stressed without due cause.

    Having said that, he sure could do with his team picking up a few points.

    --------

    "Matter of factness." What a fantastic thing to say. It really goes to show how obviously inarticulate and poor with words sports journalists aren't. Oh..

  • Comment number 18.

    A Darlington fan here, We did live beyond our means in the past but theres not much you can do when you have two chairman (George Reynolds - who built the ridicolous ground and George Houghton) who both threw money at the club and then disappeared when promotion didnt happen. If they wont allow you to have anyone else on the board then there is no way of stopping them. As usual its left to the fans to pick up the pieces and help ensure that there is a club for us to support next year.

  • Comment number 19.

    PS Curtis Main was already at the club when Colin Todd took over in the summer and also played last season.

  • Comment number 20.

    As a Bolton fan, I will always wish Colin Todd well. He gave us an incredible season in 1997, promoted to the Premiership, scoring 100 goals, with 99 points (a 7-0 win against Swindon was the highlight) and the football was amazing, unlike anything produced in the Allardyce/Megson era. So for that reason, I wish him and Darlington the best of luck, it is a mystery why he wasn't a success at Bradford/Derby et al, let's hope he rediscovers his mojo this season!!

  • Comment number 21.

    who are these big money players leeds have signed, leeds are still selling there best young players.

  • Comment number 22.

    "Todd is no stranger to... adversity."

    He knows the rules, and so do I.

  • Comment number 23.

    the real test of a manager, not like all those premier managers throwing money around like confetti, hughes, ferguson,etc. good luck colin todd

  • Comment number 24.

    6. At 3:17pm on 27 Aug 2009, Albertaforestfan wrote:
    It's a shame that in the same league we have Darlington and then Notts County. In Canad'a national sport Hockey we have a salary cap so matter how rich the owner the team cannot spend more on wages than another. Perhaps if this were implemented in the lower leagues then none of this would ahppen. But then again with Darlington we're seeing the same as happend at son many other clubs, the poor descisions of previous owner causing such damage. On FM I've got darlington to the premier league. They should of hired me and we'd be all good.

    -----------------------------------------------------

    I think you will find there is a 60% salary cap already in place
    It just so happens it is easy to overcome ( ask Notts County)

    see here

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/article-1209093/The-cap-doesnt-exactly-fit-Notts-County-keeper-Kasper-Schmeichel.html

  • Comment number 25.

    Best of luck to Darlo, we've had some good banter over the past 2 years.

    However, with a manager like Todd (and even worse a coach like Windass!!!) - I fear the worst.

    You won't go up, you won't go down, you'll just play boring football, with loads of 0-0 draws.

    Not exactly going to bring the crowds back to Feethams (I mean the Arena) is it??

  • Comment number 26.

    I think in Dowson you have a striker as good as any in this league, I know he came on late against us at Aldershot, but he immediatly start to cause problems.
    If you can hold onto him and tighten up your defence, you'll get results and climb up the table.
    Best of luck.

  • Comment number 27.

    The reason people aren't going to watch Darlington is the fact that you could pay 5 or 10 pound more n go and watch the likes of Middlesbrough and Newcastle. This was certainly the case when they were in the Premiership when big teams like Man Utd and Chelsea were playing there.
    Other lower league clubs have good pricing strategies to get people through the door whereas Darlington were charging 18 pound a game! I'm not sure if this is the same this season but it won't be much cheaper.

 

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