Here are the profiles of the Darlington FC management team, and it’s thanks to their magnificent efforts that Quakers have won three promotions in five years, and also achieved play off positions on two other occasions.
Manager – Martin Gray
Sponsor : Geoff and Joyce Siddle
Martin was appointed manager of the club in the summer of 2012 when Quakers had been forcibly relegated by the FA from the Conference (Step 1) to the Northern League (Step 5) and there was only one player on the books. He successfully built a team that went to win the Northern League with a triple century of points, goals scored and goal difference, and enjoyed a 23 game unbeaten run up to the end of the season.
He brought in several players in the summer of 2013, and Quakers went on to finish second in the Evo-Stik First Division North but lost controversially in the play off semi final to Ramsbottom.
In season 2014-15, Martin guided the club to second place in the table and another play off. After four unsuccessful attempts to win play offs in the past, Quakers were finally successful, clinching a place in the EvoStik NPL Premier Division by beating local rivals Spennymoor Town and Bamber Bridge.
Quakers went straight through the Premier Division, winning the league by four points after a hectic end of the season in which they played six games in the last fortnight. Martin thus became the first manager in the club’s 133 year history to win three promotions.
In season 2016-17, Quakers finished in the play offs again, but were prevented from participating in them because the ground was below the required standard.
Martin started his football career at Sunderland, where he was part of the squad that reached the 1992 FA Cup final, and after making 54 appearances for the club, moved to Oxford United. He stayed there for four years, making 121 appearances, before joining Darlington in 1999. He retired from playing in 2001 to concentrate on coaching, and he was made youth team coach. He moved up to assistant manager under David Hodgson and then Dave Penney, with whom he moved to Oldham Athletic in 2009. He left after a season at Oldham, and after setting up his successful coaching academy, he was appointed Darlington manager in the summer of 2012.
Assistant Manager – Brian Atkinson
Former Sunderland midfielder Brian was appointed assistant manager in 2012 after winning the Northern League in the previous season with Spennymoor.
As assistant to Martin Gray, he has helped win three promotions in four seasons.
Brian was a team mate of Martin Gray’s and also a member of the Sunderland squad that won the Second Division play off final in 1990, and reached the FA Cup final against Liverpool in 1992. He moved on to Darlington in 1996, and played in the League Two play off final against Peterborough in 2000. He retired from playing in 2002.
Brian has also won six England Under 21 caps, and was part of the squad that won the 1991 Toulon tournament.
Coach – Sean Gregan
Sean was appointed Darlington coach in the summer of 2012 by manager Martin Gray, to begin his second spell with Quakers.
Sean made his Darlington debut as a teenager in the old Third Division in season 1991-92, and went on to make 134 appearances before joining Preston North End for a six figure fee. He captained Preston to the old Second Division title before he moved on to Premiership club West Bromwich Albion in 2002 in a £2 million deal.
He made 79 appearances for WBA before joining Leeds in 2004, and two years later he joined Oldham Athletic, making 120 appearances for them.
He had brief spells at Fleetwood and Kendal before hanging up his boots and joining Quakers as defensive coach.