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Friday, July 02, 2010

Up To The Mark

After an incredible few weeks at Darlington, Nobes explains why the Quakers might emerge the winners after their very own managerial merry-go-round.

New boss Mark Cooper enjoyed success in the Conference with Kettering

Three managers in thirteen days. It's the kind of record which even QPR would do well to match. Mark Cooper's appointment on a one year deal as Darlington boss brought to an end a turbulent last couple of weeks for the North East club.

Dismally relegated from the Football League at the end of last season, the Quakers were bidding to return to the big time at the first time of asking.

However, they were rocked with the sudden resignation of manager Simon Davey - who had only joined the club in March - via an email he sent from the USA.

Not so much jilted at the altar, Davey's departure was the equivalent of being dumped by text.

At the time, the former Barnsley boss cited "personal reasons" as why he left Darlo. Ten days later though, and after claiming he had been offered a role to work in the States, he turned up at League Two Hereford.

Darlington acted swiftly - appointing Davey's long time friend and assistant, Ryan Kidd, to the top job. Less than a fortnight later, and Kidd resigned his post.

Now Copper has been left to pick up the pieces of the chaos that has reigned at a club that has endured a miserable twelve months.

The Quakers came close to going out of business altogether last summer, and then boss Colin Todd was forced to construct a squad with just a couple of weeks left before the season's kick off.

He was swiftly replaced by Steve Staunton - with Darlo struggling at the foot of League Two and staring relegation in the face. It was a fight Staunton never looked like winning, and he was eventually dismissed.

Now, back in the Non Leagues for the first time in 20 years, Darlington will hope Cooper will be able to bring some much needed stability - as well as results on the pitch.

Ironically, even after the tumultuous month at their impressive Arena ground, Cooper's arrival may actually be the golden sky after a long and depressing storm.

Simon Davey's reign as Darlington manager lasted for just 77 days

His record in the Conference is impressive. In his first job, at Tamworth, he managed to keep the Lambs in the division, as well as earning them good revenue from an impressive FA Cup run.

He next turned up at Kettering Town, where he led the Kettles to the Conference North title in his first season. An 8th placed finish on their return to Non League's top flight - as well as another good cup run - cemented his good work.

A strong start to last season eventually saw him poached by Championship side Peterborough. It proved too big a leap, too soon though - a fact the 41-year-old now recognises himself. He was sacked after less than three months.

Now he has a chance to rebuild his career and restore his reputation as one of the most talented young managers in the lower divisions though. His drive and ambition will match that of Darlington's.

He will also, after the way he was treated at Posh, be unlikely to jump ship if the opportunity was to arise. A bit of loyalty can be mutually beneficial to both Darlington and Cooper's futures.

Indeed, so keen was Cooper to get the chance to manage Darlo, he immediately contacted chairman Raj Singh about the vacancy following Kidd's resignation. Fans will hope he will be similarly quick in turning around their side's fortunes.

It could be argued too that, despite a promising end to the previous campaign under Davey, the man at the helm now is better placed to achieve success than either of his two immediate predecessors.

Davey's only managerial experience before joining Darlington was in the Championship, and he has no knowledge of the Conference. Unlike Cooper, too, he has never won a promotion in his managerial career.

Kidd had never been a manager in his own right, and was more suited to being Davey's assistant. It would be no surprise if he eventually turns up at Hereford alongside his friend.

For a club who have had such upheaval over the summer, it could be argued, therefore, that the Quakers have landed on their feet with appointing Cooper.

The only brief tenure they want now is their time in the Conference.

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