Black Cat Chat

Interview of the Month - October 2016 - 'Darlington'
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Author:  daib0 [ Wed Sep 28, 2016 2:38 pm ]
Post subject:  Interview of the Month - October 2016 - 'Darlington'

Interview of the Month - October 2016

It’s a warm welcome to someone who’s become a very well-known figure on footballing forums - yes, none other than Darlington. He is active on a number of footballing sites, so I suppose it was inevitable that I’d bump into him, but his input on my ‘Royals Rendezvous’ has been so impressive when he is not even considered a Reading fan - but that rebounds positively both for him and our site. Also an avid player of the Inter-Forum games, and even organizes a different kind of Premier League game on the Reading forum. So what he has to say is interesting for fans of ALL sites, so I take this liberty of reproducing it here! Before we get into the interview as such I’d like to present a main national forum that Darlington - or Darlo [from here on - organizes as chief-in-command. Hopefully some of the members might consider signing up too, and indeed the many guests who will read this over the coming months …

EXTREME FOOTBALL FORUM is an excellently organized football forum.

There are many sub-forums within the structure of the site but these are really easy to navigate around. After an introductions and members section - rather like Royals Rendezvous - you will find forums for all the major leagues listed in order. This includes the non-league scene, the Scottish leagues, European and world football. Cups and tournaments have a special area, and then you have General Sports, General Chat, a betting area, and even a hot ‘Babes’ sub-forum (good idea, that, of course!). Unfortunately I haven’t the time to get into the betting scene because I’m simply on too many places, but you get awarded points by all types of your contributions - I currently stand on 5897 - which can be used as ‘payments’ to play with…
There are some 260 members, but as we know on all forums the main problem is getting enough of these to contribute regularly. But all in all it’s a mightily fine job that Darlo has done, and well worth the effort of a few more of you signing up!

But our star this month can explain all this better than me, so let’s step aboard -

** 1
First off Darlo, please tell us something about yourself! Anything! Like … what were your favourite subjects at school? Did you do further studies? Working? Retired? Please describe a typical day! Family? Pets?

Right then I was born in Crawley, Sussex……yea I know it’s not Darlington but we will get to that later. I moved about the country a great deal as my parents moved, by the time I was doing O-levels we had moved 6 times. I passed the 11+ as was and went to grammar school and I guess my fave subjects were Maths & Chemistry. 5 years doing o-levels and the day I sat my last exam my dad met me at the school gate to pick me up as we had moved yet again. I did A-levels and went to Uni, I got into Manchester and did Retail Marketing and have a hons degree in it. After that I got lots of job offers from retailers and so I joined Woolies on their management scheme. By this time I was back in the North East and from them I went onto Sainsbury’s when they opened stores in the NE and spent years with them. Eventually my wife got homesick and wanted to be back in Yorkshire so we moved back to just outside Bradford and I now work in commercial insurance. I have two grown up kids, a border collie dog and a three leg cat.

** 2
Please could you introduce us a bit to your association with Darlington, now of course Darlington 1883. When did you first get interested? Any early memories or anecdotes on the team? Did you never get interested as a child in the ‘big’ teams of the day?

Like I said I moved about a bit and was interested in football but my first taste of a professional football match was when my dad took me to Layer Road to see Colchester United. You’d probably expect me to have an affinity to them I suppose but my Dad was a gunners fan and Colchester back then were dire. I suppose so were Darlington when we were in the North East but there was something about feethams, that changing of ends for the fans at half time that drew me in and that as they say was that. Since then I have followed them through thick and thin, through the ups and down and there has been a damn site more downs.
Memories of the team are seeing the likes of Sean Gregan (still to this day my favourite Darlo player) and realising that he was a far better level than we were and wondering how long we would keep him. The same though I thought when I first saw Stockdale in our net. Amazing and it was obvious he was destined for higher leagues.
Anecdote wise I would say when we were struggling with the kids as the main players had gone on frees for not getting paid. We were struggling to get games on and people were turning up and helping for free. Then one day we had no way to cut the grass. Our biggest rivals [Hartlepool United] helped out; not only did they say we could borrow their mower, they even organised a vehicle to bring it down for us. A terrific gesture from them. Sunderland helped out loaning us Jordan Pickford for free, to go in goal, who was a youngster then.
Other teams I suppose I got into Everton when my parents were in Morecambe as they were one of nearest teams but other than that no one really.

** 3
You’ve seen your league team, with a credible and long history, suffer the despair of 3 administrations - 2004, 2009 and 2011 I think it was - a new club rising from the ashes but being obliged to being placed in the ninth tier of English football for the 2012-13 season. An amazing charge upwards but I’ll touch that next question.
Did you doubt or fear back then in 2011 and 2012 that this was going to work out? Weren’t there moments of real desperation?

Doubt isn’t something you have as a football fan. Even when your team is rock bottom you still stupidly believe it will all change next week. That said the time I really did think it was perhaps all over was when we were minutes away from the administrator shutting us up and people were turning up outside the ground and handing over cash. Eventually at the 11th hour they did enough to save the club but it really was touch and go. As for despair well yes there has been but not over it working out it was always over the cr*ppy owners we seemed to have with Reynolds then Singh and what they did to the club.

** 4
Since the 2012-13 season we have witnessed a remarkable rise of the club; let me remind the members that in that first season Darlington achieved the near impossible in amounting a staggering 122 points and a whopping 145 goals; next season 2013-13 they were Northern League Div 1 North runners-up but pipped in the play-offs; however they repeated this the following season but this time however not failing in the play-offs; last year 2015-16 glorious champions of the Northern Premier League Premier Division, this confirmed in April by the massive 7-1 defeat of Whitby.
This season you are once again near the top, up with the pacemakers in the Conference North. So my question is: Can it be done? Can Darlington get back where they really deserve to be from historical considerations - in the Football League? Only two more levels to rise - but big levels to straddle! What are your thoughts as to these last two hurdles?

My dream after the FA dropped us down, made us change our name and kicked us out of the FA Cup for a couple of seasons, has always been to see Darlington back in the Football League. To give a proverbial two fingers to the suits at the FA will be more pleasure than winning any league. So yes I believe we will do but the big question is when? We were fortunate when we were dumped down that Martin Grey our then Assistant Manager stuck with us and became manager. His nous has helped us back to where we are and he is our only manager ever to get three promotions with the club, but from here it gets tougher as the team is just about good enough for the Conference but the final step will need a few better players.

** 5
Of course the Football League itself has changed enormously since the automatic entry and relegation system was introduced - first by just one team per year, and now with two. Which of the many other former League teams who no longer ply their trade in the top four tiers do you miss most, or perhaps feel sorriest for?

That is a difficult one really, as like you said so many have dropped and some have fallen down further. I suppose two stand out for me and they are Halifax Town who had real difficulty and were dropped like ourselves but are now on the way back. The one though that perhaps is the one I feel sorriest for is Hereford United who fell and went completely in 2014. The club that formed from their demise is just called Hereford and have “forever united” on their badge as they still see themselves as Hereford United.

** 6
In the Football League, as it is at present I mean, which clubs do you have a soft spot for? And any that you can’t bear?
I must ask, how do you view Reading FC? [sorry, people on other forums!]

I have a soft spot for Colchester United because I said earlier they were the first game my Dad took me too. Although I was only there a year I have one also for Crawley Town as they are after all my home town. I can’t bear Hartlepool United, even though they are Darlington’s rivals I have seen the mayhem their fans have caused after and before games in the town centre.
To be honest I didn’t have a great interest in Reading until I got to know daib0 and joined Royals Rendezvous and now I suppose I do look at their score on a Saturday afternoon.

** 7
In general, your favourite footballer/s and/or sportsmen/sportswomen of all-time?

Favourite footballer of all time is easy for me as there can only be one in my opinion. That is the late great Duncan Edwards who unfortunately was taken before his time in the Munich Air disaster. He was big, played football well in any position he was placed and worried opponents. When Booby Charlton still to this day says the best player he has ever seen is him, and he has seen plenty then you know that Duncan was incredible. Best player I have ever seen play is Zinedane Zidane closely followed by George Best.
Other sportsmen I would say are great for me are Muhammed Ali, Joe Montana, Sunil Gavaskar.

** 8
Which things would you could change in football, if you had single-handedly had full powers to do so?!

The main thing I would change is the money distribution. Not enough comes out the top league to the lower leagues. Clubs at the bottom struggle with lower incomes etc. and just a little more or more even spread would help so many small clubs keep surviving. Rules wise it would have to be the off-side rule. They have pratted about with it so many times that it gets harder to understand and causes too many “that can’t be right” moments. Go back to what it always used to be so if you are offside that is it none of this not interfering with play rubbish.

** 9
Moving across now into the Forum world. I knew you personally on several other forums before you became a valued member of Royals Rendezvous site. But perhaps it is the “Extreme Football Forum” where you are best known, doing an excellent job on steering a national football forum for fans of any football team. Could you tell us how this came about? Why did you feel that it was a good move to start it, and are you content at its progress?

Extreme Football Forum came about by accident I suppose. I had a friend Jimmie O’ who talked me into helping out with a forum with himself and Eddie who runs “Kopworld” (a good Liverpool forum). It was always in Jimmie’s name but he couldn’t code, do html etc. so myself and Eddie helped him out. Then one day it went and Jimmie couldn’t get it back. He needed help fast so I set up the one we have now to keep it going and retain members. Then Jimmie’s circumstances changed and it became me running it. I guess like a lot of things in life it is right place right time. I kept it going and then it became second nature to do that. With any forum you are never sure its progress is right and I suppose are never content. There are always times you want to jack it all in and others when you think it is great. What I am is surprised it has kept going this long I always thought it would not survive and certainly never this long.

** 10
One feature of the Extreme Football Forum is the importance given to prediction games, something which we perhaps share with you. Indeed the Premier League game on ‘beating Lawro’ is proving quite popular on here with you as game organizer - a public ‘many thanks’ is due here!
Do you feel that these sorts of games are useful to bring people together, when often on social networks the elements whizz by without people really getting to know each other?

I think the prediction games have done a lot to keep the forum going in honesty. It gets members to come on regularly I suppose and then you hope they will join in on other items/discussions/debates as well. It is surprising how people do like to compete on these things.

** 11
Funnily enough, many of the Extreme Football Forum members seem to be from more ‘northern’ teams - is that merely a coincidence? Having said that, I now number hundreds of posts and I’ve always been made 100% welcome …

I’d have to say it’s coincidence although you tend to find there are a lot of Man Utd, Liverpool fans out there on forums. At the beginning we had loads of Celtic fans for some reason and we have had them from all over.

** 12
Yourself too with hundreds of posts on Royals Rendezvous - anything you specially like on our forum? Content, personalities, structure … anything new you’d like to see? [sorry again, people on other forums!]

Hard one that as half the forum is specifically Reading FC related and understandably so. Those bits aren’t so interesting to me but I do read them to see what is going on. I do like though the way you like other teams fans to come on and post in those areas that they can. Personalities on your forum I can’t really comment but I have always felt welcome and find the debate on football and other issues good.

So many thanks to 'Darlo' for a fascinating interview that ALL British football fans should be able to identify with ...

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