128 Years of History Could End Today For Darlington FC

I was relieved when Plymouth Argyle was saved from the peril of liquidation but now it’s another Football Club with a long history in Football that faces the same threat, Darlington FC.

The Conference side were only members of the Football League a few years ago following relegation from League Two in the 2009-2010 Season.

To begin to describe the troubles ‘The Quakers’ have had over the last 10 years would be a bit like opening Pandora’s Box. From a personal point of view, as a QPR fan, I often mention to people that we originated with the name St.Jude (the patron of Lost Causes). However a look at Darlington’s history and I start to begin to feel quite fortunate about my own team.

Having entered Administration for a third time in 10 years recently under a third chairman (Raj Singh) meant that there is clearly something wrong at the club. News at the start of the week broke that they have terminated the contracts of the playing staff as well as Manager Craig Liddle.

The 10-point penalty for entering admin means the club are now close to the relegation zone in the Blue Square Premier but that’s the least of the worries with Saturday’s game against Fleetwood potentially being called off if the Club close.

It was expected that today (Tuesday) the Administrators would fold the club by midday however news reports have suggested that former chairman George Houghton in talks with a life line takeover. He was the chairman who preceded Singh, and had also placed the club in administration for the second period in the last 10 years.

Manager, Liddle, is a Darlo hero, having been a player at the club since the late 1990’s, he remembers the days of playing at the Feethams ground and before controversial owner George Reynolds took over.

Liddle has laid blame on the new stadium, infamously named the Reynolds Arena for the clubs problems and stated that if the club had stayed at Feethams, then they would be financially healthy.

The Darlington Arena is a white elephant with not enough fans to fill it at this level of football means the running costs run in the “tens of thousands” per week according to Raj Singh.

Although various miss-management off the pitch has cost the Club dearly, they were unlucky to lose out on promotion twice via the play-offs in the last 10 years and playing in League One, could’ve seen the club make the most out of their big stadium.

George Reynolds had the right ambition but who in their right mind builds the stadium before you’ve got the team? It always seemed like a flawed plan and a gamble from the start.

Darlington player Aaron Brown, Tweeted that he drove 227 miles to train and then to be told they’ve all been made redundant but still asked to play against Fleetwood on Saturday.

Let’s remember these are players who are not on Premier League wages and have families to support, mortgages to pay. Craig Liddle himself has been very loyal to the club over the last decade but is even worried about his and his family’s future.

To think only last season the club had just finished outside of the play-offs in their first season out of the football league since the late 1980’s and also won the FA Trophy at Wembley stadium.

Now the 128 years of Darlington FC could be over unless Houghton who’s currently in talks as I type this at 3 PM with the administrators to try and negotiate a deal that would save the club.

In the 1980’s the club were close to going out of business but with fans making great fundraising schemes saved the club. In the last 10 years there have been plenty of the same, fundraising upon fundraising to save the club, which makes you wonder if it’s always going to be the inevitable.

More worryingly overall is the fact that if Darlo DO go out of business, it would be a 25% FAILIURE rate for clubs Relegated from the Football League since Scarborough in the 1990’s.

Scarborough, Chester City, Halifax Town, Rushden & Diamonds and Boston United all went out of business in the last 10 years and the FA need to work out a better procedure to help teams in these situations.

Looking for positives is hard, but if Darlington did fold, then a phoenix club in their name would start at step 5, five levels below the Conference or a new club entirely would start in Step 7.

Recently, Chester and Halifax have had success with their phoenix clubs gaining promotions at the first time of asking. Plus, stories of FC United and of course AFC Wimbledon can do wonders to fill fans with a sense of hope.

Hope is something Darlington fans are surely running out of.

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January Transfer Window Update….Where are the Big Deals?

We’re almost half way through January the month that sees the transfer window open for European clubs to buy, sell or loan players during the 31 days of the month. However, there appears to be heavy negotiations behind the scenes with managers, players and more correctly agents and chairmen. Where are the big deals?

The likes of Gary Cahill and Carlos Tevez were rumoured to make moves come January but neither deals have taken place with the latest of Tevez’s switch to Milan appears to have been stalled. Rumours are linking the want away Argentinean striker to Queens Park Rangers, who appointed his former boss at City, Mark Hughes as their manager.

It may just be because they share the same agent but could Tevez play his football in London again? Crazier things have happened.

Whatever happens, QPR is one club that’s expected to be very busy this month but have only acquired Federico Macheda on loan from Manchester United.

Whilst across west London, Chelsea were expected to make some signings for manager Andres Villas Boas to boost his squad. Gary Cahill of Bolton Wanderers has been heavily linked with a move to Stamford Bridge although the likes of Tottenham Hotspur could be after him too.

The most interesting deals of the 12 days we’ve had so far have been Nicolas Anelka’s move to China, whilst he may be well past his prime you didn’t expect the Frenchman to end his playing days in the Chinese Premier Division. ‘The Sulk’ has been one the best finisher’s the Premier League has ever seen.

Some interesting loan deals have taken place with Emmanuel Frimpong joining Wolverhampton Wanderers on loan from Arsenal, a midfield with him and Jamie O’Hara sounds very combative.

Whilst away from the top flight, League Two side AFC Wimbledon have made a double scoop with the return of Jason Euell to the South London club from Charlton Athletic on loan and young midfield George Moncur (son of John) from West Ham.

The biggest signing of this transfer window so far has to be Thierry Henry returning to Arsenal on loan. Whilst players look to end their careers in the MLS, the fact they’re able to come back on loan is a very attractive prospect for players and clubs alike.

Robbie Keane also joins Henry in a short term loan by signing for Aston Villa. The player who never lived up to expectations in his loan move at West Ham United last season has caused a flurry of ‘boyhood club’ jokes on Twitter, as standard.

What’s to come in the remaining days of January? It’s hard to say.

Will Manchester United buy a midfielder? Where will Christopher Samba ditch Blackburn for? And just how many players will Mark Hughes sign at QPR?

I’ll be back in a week to see what’s taken place…

The Large Pool of Ex-Managers (Part Two)

Long overdue, I’ve returned to this article for the 2nd part which focuses on Football Managers who have been out of management for a long time, for one reason or another despite being great players themselves and in some cases very good managers.

With only 92 clubs in the top four divisions I suppose there is bound to be a long list of those left out of the game without the right luck or motivation to get back into management. Here are a number of candidates that haven’t managed in awhile.

Alan Curbishley: Despite not managing a football club since 2008, his name is still linked to a host of clubs looking for a new manager but for one reason or another he’s never been appointed. Maybe his last spell in management at West Ham United had severely damaged a reputation that’d been impeccable in his 15 years with Charlton Athletic. However I am still surprised he’s not taken/given an opportunity at another club in recent seasons.

His long spell in charge of Charlton saw the club achieve two promotions and consolidation in the Premier League for many seasons. Since his departure from the club in 2006, the Addicks suffered two relegations in 3 seasons and found themselves back where they started.

He saved West Ham from relegation in the 2006/2007 season and finished in the top ten of the EPL the following season, signing players like Scott Parker and Craig Bellamy. However, he left the club after the sale of two players which he wasn’t consulted about and said that it had breached a clause in his contract.

By 2009 he won a court case and the Hammers paid him £2.2 million in compensation. I imagine many Hammers fans were Continue reading

Friday Focus: FA Cup Weekend

Its FA Cup weekend once again as the 2nd Round proper kicks off tonight with Blue Square Bet Premier side Fleetwood Town hosting League One Yeovil. With plenty of Non-League sides still competing in the prestigious competition many will be hoping to be in the pot for the 3rd Round draw comes Sunday afternoon. A home tie to Liverpool or an away trip to Old Trafford could financially fund a Non-League team for a whole season which is why this is a big, big deal.

Some interested fixtures in tomorrow’s games sees Stourbridge who previously knocked out Plymouth Argyle in a replay host Stevenage which could see another upset. One of the lowest ranked teams left in the Cup, Redbridge have a tough task travelling to Crawley Town.

There are some guaranteed Non-Leaguers entering the 3rd Round in January with a few all-non-league fixtures like Salisbury versus Grimsby and Gateshead versus Tamworth. Both Sheffield clubs host League Two opposition with Torquay going to United and Aldershot playing at Wednesday.

On Sunday, the televised games see AFC Totton, another one of the lowest ranked teams in the Cup this year host League Two Bristol Rovers. Could the part timers cause an upset? Sutton United also host Martin Allen’s Notts County side.

Meanwhile there’s Premier League and Championship action to also enjoy that is set to be a weekend Football feast.

Can Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas change things around with a win at Newcastle United? And will Martin O’Neill be in the dugout for Sunderland’s trip to Wolves on Sunday?

The Large Pool of Ex-Managers (Part One)

Football Management often described as the best job in the world whilst also cited as one of the toughest and most stressful. It’s the job that is simulated by fans all over the world on games like Football Manager and Championship Manager, and a job that stands alone in its sackings and appointment processes.

There have been plenty of articles written about the best managers of all time, and even some of the worst but there has been an article brewing inside of me for some time on those managers who have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another in English football.

Perhaps it is a generational thing and it’s out with the old, in with the new as there appears to be an increasing number of younger managers who are taking over one of the 92 clubs rather than a Manager with experience like before. Or maybe it’s the managers themselves, with experience who are turning down opportunities either for something better or the fact they longer want to do the tough job that is football management.

Off the top of my head I could think of several managers who I thought would stay in the management game for a long time but it has not been the case. After some helpful suggestions on Twitter, I ended up with a list of over twenty Continue reading

The Friday Focus: Midlands Derby, Fergie Dilemma & More…

Friday Focus

The Midlands Derby

If Alex McLeish can steer his Aston Villa side to victory over their midland rivals Wolves, then it’d go even further to endearing himself to the Holte End faithful. Wolves on the other hand, are still buoyant over their home win over Fulham last week. Expect a keenly fought local derby on Saturday afternoon.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Selection Dilemma

With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling performing with distinction on Monday evening against Spurs, what thoughts are occupying Ferguson in terms of Manchester United’s clash with Arsenal?. I was curious to see Jones being deployed as a right centre-back with Jonny Evans deployed on the left of him. Is Chris Smalling seen as a long term option at right back? Will Tom Cleverley continue to flourish or flounder as a central midfielder? All these questions and more will be answered when Arsenal visit the Theatre of Dreams.

Nottingham Forest v West Ham

Another clash of the big name managers in The Championship. With Steve Mc Claren and Sam Allardyce in the dugout, there’s bound to be more focus on their touchline antics rather than the game itself. West Ham’s form under Allardyce has been far from sparkling and they’ll be keen to find some form at the City Ground.

AVB aka Andre Villas-Boas

The man of the managerial moment, Mr Villas-Boas hasn’t had things go all his own way since he touched down in England. Judging by Villas-Boas’ firm rebuttal to the audible boos from the Chelsea crowd during their win over West Brom, it seems that Villas-Boas was starting to believe his own hype. It looks like Villas-Boas is becoming a prickly character even at this early stage of his debut season in the Premier League. He’ll definitely be one to watch.

Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger is being criticised from all corners (Arsenal fans included). Despite the recent sales of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasir, Wenger has remained defiant to all the naysayers. Arsenal’s clash with Manchester United won’t provide the death knell that many people predicted. Arsenal’s win over Udinese has given the players and Wenger a fillip. Arsene Wenger will leave Old Trafford after the match with his head held high, win, lose or draw.

Monday Muse: La Liga strike,EPL,Spurs,Championship & Tevez…

The La Liga ‘holdout’

La Liga is arguably the most decorated league in world football and yet, it didn’t kick off over the weekend. It’s refreshing to hear that La Liga’s stellar stars such as Xavi and Iker Casillas were standing on the front of the picket line with their less celebrated counterparts across all the major divisions within Spanish Football. As always with a lockout, it’s down to money and how it’s distributed fairly amongst the professional footballers. A large percentage of players have also been playing without pay hence this lockout. Let’s hope the LFP and Spanish Players association resolve their issues soon. Spanish football is the loser.

Arsenal v Liverpool Continue reading

Juventus pay homage to Football history

Italian side Juventus have invited English League One side Notts County to play a Friendly on the 8th September to open the new stadium in Turin. The Juventus Arena replaces the depleted Stadio delle Alpi which never lived up to expectations since it was built for the 1990 Italian World Cup finals.

Notts County, the oldest Professional football club in the world were invited by Juventus after the historic links between the two clubs. It’s a well know fact and a favourite amongst football trivia that Juventus’ iconic black and white striped kit was taken from the Nottinghamshire side.

John Savage, an English man playing for Juventus in 1903 was the cause after having a friend from County send over replacement shirts for the Italian club who were playing in Pink at the time.

Juventus are expected to start in pink for the friendly and change kits at half-time. It’s a brilliant opportunity for Martin Allen, manager of County to take his League One side over to play the Serie A side, an opportunity most the squad would never have experienced.

Mid-Week Muse: Football League & European Action

Due to life getting in the way I was unable to produce a ‘Monday Muse’ article on Monday focussing on the events from the weekend’s football action. To make up for it, I thought I’d do a special Mid-Week Muse with all the Football League and Europa League action that took place.

The Football League went through its third run of games which provided a series of interesting results. In the Championship, newly promoted Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion continued their excellent start to the season with impressive victories over Ipswich Town and Cardiff City.

The Saints came away 5-2 winners at Portman Road causing the Tractor Boys a third straight victory including defeat in the League Cup. Their manager Paul Jewell must be wondering where it went wrong since their opening day 3-0 victory at Bristol City.

Joining the two promoted teams with a 100% record is Derby County, a team that have struggled in recent years under manager Nigel Clough but finally the rub of the green is on their side this season with a 3rd straight league win coming at Blackpool. County ran out 1-0 winners causing Ian Holloway an indifferent start back in the Football League.

Leicester City were one of the favourites with Sven Goran-Eriksson allowed to spend in the summer but they suffered a shock defeat at home to Bristol City. It may take some time for all the new players to gel but the Foxes will be expected to challenge for promotion come the end of the season.

In League One, Chris Powell looks to have the remedy for Charlton Athletic with third straight league win with a 2-0 result at Colchester. Newly relegated Sheffield United have also recorded 3 straight wins which is an excellent start if they want to achieve promotion at the first attempt.

The blue side of Sheffield has been indifferent; a win on the opening day looked good for manager Gary Megson but two straight defeats have been alarming, with the last being a 2-1 defeat at Bury.

Russell Slade looked to have turned Leyton Orient’s fortunes around last season but 3 straight defeats has seen them rock bottom of League One.

Rotherham are the only side in League Two with 100% record intact, a 2-1 victory at Crewe saw them top the table. Newly promoted Crawley Town remain undefeated in their Football League history and a 3-0 home victory over Southend United is mightily impressive.

AFC Wimbledon have also turned an opening day defeat around with two back to back wins, a surprising 2-0 victory down at Peter Reid’s Plymouth Argyle came about on Tuesday night with a brace from Jack Midson.

It was a contrasting set of results on Thursday evening in the Europa League for England and Scotland. Tottenham Hotspur who were denied starting their Premier League campaign last weekend took it out on Scottish Premier League side Hearts of Midlothian.

A 5-0 victory at Tynecastle was more than embarrassing for the SPL who have always faced scepticism about the competitiveness of their league. Despite Hearts being a month into their season, it was Spurs who looked sharp with excellent passing and moving from the team.

They didn’t miss Luka Modric as Krancar and Van Der Vaart teamed up well, plus a goal for Jake Livermore was well deserved.

The SPL’s run away clubs didn’t fair well either, Glasgow Rangers went down 2-1 to Slovenian champions NK Maribor. Rangers took the lead in the first half, but a 2nd half equaliser and a last minute goal saw them left red faced.

More shocking was Glasgow Celtic being held 0-0 at Parkhead to Swiss side FC Sion. However, the Swiss club could face a penalty by UEFA by fielding 4 players of the ‘Sion Six’ who were banned due to a transfer embargo placed on the club.

Stoke City survived any embarrassment on the Astroturf in Switzerland with a 1-0 victory over FC Thun. Whilst Championship side Birmingham City held Nacional to a 0-0 draw in Portugal.

Fulham manager Martin Jol made a number of changes to the starting line-up for the home tie with Dnipro but the south west London side came out 3-0 victors.

That’s the Mid-Week Muse complete, we learnt that Scottish football is as pants as we all expected, Sven-Goran Eriksson may think about retirement and Spurs fans think they’re going to win the World Cup after out passing Hearts.

What has happened to Grimsby Town?

For football fans more concerned with the Manchester United’s, Liverpool’s and Barcelona’s of this world this is probably not the article for you (unless you’ve decided to add depth to your English football knowledge). On Tuesday evening saw Grimsby Town Football Club at their lowest point in their 133 year history when they lost 5-0 at Braintree Town in the National Conference (Blue Square Bet Premier Division).

Whilst the club nicknamed The Mariners have not set English football alight in their long history, they have played a significant part having been in the Football League since 1911 and despite one season out of it before that they were competing as far as 1892. That is why relegation from Football League Two in 2010 came at complete shock and Continue reading