Martin Gray insists Darlington 1883’s return to the town will be “massive” for the long-term progress of the club.
The Quakers have been based at Heritage Park, home of Ebac Northern League side Bishop Auckland, since summer 2012, when following administration they were relegated four divisions from the Conference, and vacated the Neasham Road arena.
Now fourth in Evo-Stik North, the club has agreed a deal to play their home games at Darlington Rugby Club’s Blackwell Meadows next season, though The Journal understands the move may not occur until a month or two into the 2014-15 campaign.
The Blackwell Meadows pitch is to be relaid during the close season, and a new drainage system installed.
The portable stand currently at Heritage Park is to be re-erected at the rugby club, and hard standing laid.
The result, Gray hopes, is that 1883’s average attendances rise from 1,500 to around 2,000, and that more town-based sponsors view the relocation as a more viable reason to invest.
All told, he adds, the club is “moving in the right direction”.
“It’s massive for the club,” said Gray.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for since the club went into administration and had to move out of the town.
“We’ve had some really good success on the pitch, which has helped sustain interest and keep attendances up. That was vital, winning promotion in year one and continuing that form this year.
“But moving back to Darlington can only add to that.
“Once we’re back, it’ll give people belief that the club is back part of the town. There’s no reason now why people who found it difficult to get across to Bishops can’t come along and support the club.
“If we can have more success on the pitch, I’m hoping to get 2,000 people here.
“The facilities are good but it’s obviously not set up for football, so there’s a lot of work to do.
“This is home, and I hope it’s home for many years to come.”
Gray added: “It’s a great club, there’s so much passion. You want to see it survive, you want to see it work.
“A lot of people have done a lot to get us this far, and we have to keep it going.
“I’m very proud to be manager of this football club. It’s something I wanted to do for many years.
“At the time I took over things could only get better, and they have. We’re moving in the right direction.”