PROMOTION is everything, Mark Cooper insists, as Darlington kick off their second season in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
The Quakers enjoyed a good second half to the previous campaign, winning the FA Trophy and finishing seventh – seven points outside the play-offs.
A first half like that second stage, Cooper reckons, and they would have made it.
So now – beginning against league newcomers Braintree Town at home today – the Darlington boss has implored his men to go one better.
And with it, boost the club’s funds and fanbase.
Cooper said: “We have to improve on last year and try and get up.
“Getting back up is everything, because you receive your funding from the Football League, which is a vast sum of money for a club like ours.
“So to get back into the league would be brilliant.
“You have more supporters, a bigger away following, more sponsorship and commercial activity. That is everything.
“If we had had a first half of the season like the second, I think we would have got into the play-offs. The points tally across the season would have got us in.
“So I do not see any reason why we cannot keep that going. We have strengthened, so why not?”
Why not indeed, following the recruitment of Adam Rundle, Kris Taylor, Graeme Lee, James Walshaw, Ryan Bowman and, on loan, Chris Atkinson and Ben Purkiss.
Cooper, who has also handed a trial to goalkeeper Scott Pocklington, added: “We finished a few points short of the play-offs and we have to strive to get into them this time.
“A lot of teams have strengthened and spent a lot of money. So it is going to be tough.
“You look, and I would say there are six or seven teams who have strengthened more than us.
“I am really pleased with the acquisitions I have made, and it is not always the ones who have spent the most money who earn the success.
“Look at AFC Wimbledon last year. They managed to go up, and their budget would not have been in the top five or six teams.
“So there are ways to do it and I am confident with the players I have. We will be all right.”
On Pocklington – a former youth team player at the Northern Echo Arena – Cooper added: “He has trained with us and looks quite good. This is a good opportunity for him.
“He has all the right tools, he just has to get them out and put them all together. We may look to involve him at the weekend.”