Last night saw the Martin Gray answer a host of questions as part of a talk-in organised by Geoff Thompson of the Darlo Tykes. The event was compared by Tony Waters and there was around 40-50 in attendance. Without going in to too much detail, a few of the night’s salient points were:
- All the players are now contracted. The only player that has been released is Nelson Mota, who has returned to France.
- He is expecting Mark Bell to leave the club. Gray has been aware for some time that Bell wants to play local football next season. It would appear that Bell is contracted for next season as the club are currently negotiating the transfer of Bell to another side.
- Gray is looking to sign a goalkeeper who can challenge Peter Jameson like Bell has. This could mean signing a ‘keeper who could, in fact, be better than Jameson.
- Gray confirmed that Tom Portas’ “long-term contract” was a 3-year deal.
- Gray doesn’t expect to lose any players this summer to clubs higher up the league or to professional football although if a player did have the opportunity and the deal for the club was right, he would not stand in their way.
- Despite being in the first batch of confirmations, Liam Hatch was, in fact, the last player to sign a new contract following negotiations with Gray. Gray clearly happy to have retained his services, both on the pitch but also for his impact in the dressing room.
- Gray explained that Alan White will undertake some coaching duties as well as playing and will support Mark Fanning who is going to be running the reserve team.
- Gray explained that Graeme Armstrong had his operation on Thursday morning. The op was the better of two options for Armstron. It required the NHS finding around £17,000 to fund the op. Should be back for pre-season. Gray suggested that the club will be looking to do a bucket collection for the hospital to try and give them some money back given the considerable expense. It is hoped that with the procedure, Armstrong will not end up being diabetic.
- Amar Purewal is making good progress. Difficult to say when he’ll be back. He is currently under the supervision of Adam Reed at Middlesbrough FC for rehabilitation.
- The players will be spending the first month of pre-season (from early June) under the supervision of one of the players who will be working with them on their fitness and conditioning. (I’m guessing this is Ian Watson)
- Gray is looking forward to seeing Nathan Cartman linking up with Rob Youhill, given their successful partnership at Harrogate RA.
- In terms of bringing players in, Gray is looking at bringing another two or three in. He will only bring in players who are better than what he already has. He’s been fielding calls from agents and players from all over UK and Europe. Will be holding open trials and reviewing CVs.
- With regards player recruitment, Gray feels the North East is pretty limited. He is frustrated and the lack of perceived value due to high wages and crazy transfer fee demands. Is looking at the logistics of bringing players from further afield. Would look at putting car schools together.
- Gray has been given the go-ahead from the board to appoint two new scouts. Harry Dunn took in over 90 games last season. To aid player recruitment, new scouts will be hired to cover the North East and North West.
- Gray highlighted that Stephen Thompson had played for the last month with a broken toe. He was having painkilling injections before, during and after matches.
- In terms of Blackwell Meadow, Gray feels it is likely to be September or October before we will get there. There’s been no spades in the ground yet.
- Gray’s only request for the development was that the pitch be of football league standard.
- Over the last couple of years, he’s had a couple of Football League clubs approach him to be manager. Turned down immediately. Gray has no real appetite to return to the full-time game unless it is with Darlington.
The second half of the evening came to an end early as Gray’s phone was ringing off the hook with a potential deal in the offing. With that in mind, he got off. Watch this space!
Overall, the evening was excellent. Gray was a little less candid than he has been previously although he was excellent value. As you can imagine, he expressed a number of personal opinions but they shall remain with those in attendance. Hopefully, I’ve covered all of the main points of fact(ish).
Come on Darlo!