Hi Tim! What are the perks of being Darlington's club photographer? Does it make you feel all ITK?
Hi Gav! First off I'd just like to say a big thank you for choosing me to represent Darlington Football Club for this article, also a hello to anyone that is reading this. I hope all who make the trip to Heritage Park (remember we play in Bishop Auckland now, not that god awful white elephant that is the Darlington Arena) have a brilliant day, I'm 100% sure you'll all be made to feel welcome by our fans.
Oh, there's many perks to being the clubs matchday photographer. ITK? Hmm, not really, but obviously I'm usually 'one of' the first people to learn of any important news that will be relayed back to the fans. This ranges from info on new kits, sponsorship deals and a whole host of other things. In all honesty the best perk for me has to be the free admission and away travel for the season. It's just great to feel that I can finally contribute something towards the club I've supported since childhood, voluntarily I may add!
So, Darlington... It's been a rough couple of years. What has it been like being part of the club in the last few seasons? This weekend's game is intended as a fundraiser for the club, which I believe will help with moving back to your town centre from Bishop Auckland....
Rough couple of years? Jeez, isn't that the understatement of the century...
But yeah, it's been incredibly tough for the fans - we went from being regular playoff contenders in League 2 all the way down to where we are at now in the space of five years. There have been some great memories in amongst all of that - seeing my local club score an injury time winner at the national stadium and steamrolling the northern league (in our first season under fan ownership) are memories that I will take to the grave.
Unfortunately the bad memories will always overshadow the good ones. Making that awful trip to Barrow in January 2012 to witness what many expected to be our last ever match in existence, was and always will be one of the worst experiences of my life. No football fan, be they non-league or premier league supporters, should ever have to experience that.
Moving onto this Saturday's game, I can't stress how important this match will be towards our move back to town. Don't get me wrong, we as Darlo fans will always be grateful to Bishop Auckland for taking us in in our hour of need, but now it's time we finally went home. In my opinion, the future of the club depends on the quickest return possible.
How do you see the coming season going for Darlington? Can you see promotion on the horizon?
This season is going to be just as tough as last season, if not tougher. Missing out on promotion (particularly in the fashion that we did) was heartbreaking, but both Ramsbottom United and Curzon Ashton deserved to be promoted.
Now though the problem is both those teams have been replaced by competition that are just as good. Our local rivals Spennymoor Town whom we, in polite terms, 'pipped' to the northern league title in 2013 will be joining us this season, along with current members of the Evo-Stik North Division One Salford City who are 'supposedly' being bank rolled by the class of 92. But, if we can take last seasons great form into this season, we'll certainly be up there again.
You have a couple of ex-SAFC talents on your books, including David Dowson who I felt might have done well in the football league upon leaving us but it wasn't to be. What's he been like for Darlo?
David, just like the rest of the former SAFC talents, has been a great asset to Darlington FC in the last two seasons. His work rate alone is a fine example of what a player like him can bring to the team, and that's without mentioning his goal scoring ability. Coming to us only just recently after becoming a fan owned club and having been demoted to the northern league took guts.
What is Heritage Park like? We've kind of borrowed it for the Real Betis game too...
Heritage Park is a lovely ground. Its official capacity is around about 2004 I believe but with a packed shed end, you can certainly create a great atmosphere. One slight problem though is the pitch is not the greatest but I do believe there has been work carried out on it over the summer in order to improve it.
Sunderland are bringing along a first team squad to take on the Quakers tomorrow - how do you see the game going?
I see us running out clear winners.
In all honesty, a lot of us aren't really interested in how the game pans out - of course, the match will be a great experience for the lads on the pitch that are being given a chance to go toe to toe with some of the best players in the country and also for a young photographer like me who is just starting out in the profession, it'll be great.
All we really hope for is that the day is thoroughly enjoyable for all that attend and that the whole occasion proves to be a success in helping us to make even bigger steps towards returning home.
Who should we fear from the Darlington side? One quick glance at your official website shows the majority of the squad are ex-members of Boro/Sunderland/Newcastle's academies, which certainly shows that the talent is there.
Stephen Thompson is the player to look out for. The former Middlesbrough academy product is, shall we say, the 'Lionel Messi' of the Evo-Stik league. Just like Dowson and the rest of the team he has been instrumental in getting us to where we are now and, in all honesty, he shouldn't be anywhere near non-league football.
Finally, give us a score prediction...
My heart says 2-1 Darlo, but my head says Darlo 1 - 10 Sunderland. Like I said before though the most important thing to come out of the match is that hopefully the whole day proves to be a success, both for the fans and the club.