THE mastermind of Sunderland’s last appearance in a Wembley cup final has returned to the North-East to back Darlington Football Club’s attempts to return to their hometown.
Malcolm Crosby, who was the manager of the Black Cats as they lost to Liverpool in the 1992 FA Cup final, was reunited with former Sunderland players Martin Gray, Tony Norman and Brian Atkinson, all of whom are on the Quakers’ backroom staff, at Darlington Rugby Club’s Blackwell Meadows ground yesterday.
Supporters and local businesses have until next Monday to invest in an initiative that will help fund a ground-sharing arrangement between the Quakers and the rugby club next season.
“Martin’s taken over a club in very difficult circumstances, but the achievements so far have been fantastic,” said Crosby. “But to bring the club back into the town would be another massive step.
“It’s great that so many people are trying to make it happen. Darlington is a very important club in the world of North-East football, and I’m sure all of the region’s football fans will be right behind the attempts to restore the club to its former glories.
“The plans to share with the rugby club are exciting for everyone. There’s a chance to build something special here, and I just hope it comes to fruition.
Darlington’s ongoing investment drive has already raised more than £62,000, and the club’s board of directors are hoping to pass the £70,000 mark by the February 24 deadline.
The £75,000 cash injection triggered by Dan Burn’s senior debut for Fulham has helped address inherited debts, and any money raised this week will go directly into the pool set aside to fund next season’s move from the Quakers’ temporary base at Bishop Auckland.
“It’s difficult to give an exact timeline, because some things are out of our hands,” said chief executive Martin Jesper. “But we’re certainly hoping to be back playing in Darlington at some stage next season.
“We’ve got to have a back-up arrangement, and we’re talking with Bishop Auckland about continuing that arrangement, but the fund-raising has been a success so far and we’re getting all the planning approval we need from the local authorities.”
Investors in the club can become fully-fledged shareholders by donating any sum from £100 to £7,500. Fans can also set up standing orders or make smaller donations through either the DFC development Fund or the Back to Darlo fund. Full details are on the club’s website at www.darlington1883.co.uk.