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Darlington FC History
Somebody switched the light off
By BBC Tees' Ray Simpson
Just over two years since Darlington Football Club came out of administration, it's sad to see it happening all over again. BBC Tees' Darlington FC Commentator Ray Simpson shares his story.
What is it about following Darlo that seems to attract despair and joy in disproportionate measures?
In 1993, a farewell presentation was made to Dennis Thompson, my predecessor at BBC Tees (then BBC Radio Cleveland). Dennis had been covering the Quakers for around 30 years and somebody joked after the event: “Two good years, Dennis, and 28 bad ones.”
I think I’ve got almost the same ratio, since I started watching the Quakers in the early seventies as a teenager.
The Darlington Arena
In only my second season, we had gates of around 1,000, and around Christmas one year, we lost 7-0 at Bradford City. The manager said afterwards: “That won’t happen again” – but a week later, we were thumped 7-0 at home by Southport.
In those days, Darlo were lucky that there was no automatic promotion and relegation into the Conference as there is now. The old pals’ act usually came to the rescue – that and the fact that Darlo is one of the stops on the main railway line and is right next to the A1. Barrow were booted out of the league because they finished at the bottom of the old Fourth Division at the wrong place at the wrong time – and Barrow doesn’t have a railway, and the nearest motorway is 40 miles away.
Owners have come and gone, the dim rays of hope have all too often been shut out, like a light bulb suddenly blowing when you arrive home from an away match at 3 in the morning.
The club has probably had more crises than any other in the Football League, and it hasn’t been helped by the spiralling costs of running a football club over the last three decades.
Over the years
Managers have come and gone, so have ambitious owners who have vowed to turn the club – which hasn’t tasted football at a higher level since 1992 – and that one day it will play in the Premiership/Championship/Division Three.
Yes, it could be the Premier one day – the UniBond Premier.
Feethams was maybe past its best, but it had a unique character – plus for us fans, you could walk all the way around the ground so then you could stand behind the end that Darlo were attacking, or in some of the bad seasons, watch them defend badly from 100 yards away.
There have been some great moments in the last thirty years or so. Back to back title wins in 1990 and 1991, a trip to Wembley for the play offs in 1996, a play off win against Hartlepool in 2000, a league cup draw at Leeds – and it’s the prospect of some sort of repeat that keeps us going.
Many fans thought before the home game with Rochdale on a Tuesday night in February that this could be Darlo’s year for promotion – and then suddenly at 11pm somebody switched the light off. We were in administration again, the Football League deducted ten points, and we’re trying to raise cash to save the club. Again - for the second time in six years, and for the umpteenth time in 35 years.
Why do we bother? Because it’s part of our lives and while we have more bad years than good, we always hope that there’ll be one good year around the corner.
last updated: 13/03/2009 at 09:17