Durham City taken over by Olivier Bernard

The Northern Echo: Former Newcastle United star Olivier Bernard who is the new chairman of Durham City Football Club Former Newcastle United star Olivier Bernard who is the new chairman of Durham City Football Club

A FORMER Premiership footballer has become the owner and chairman of non-league Durham City.

Former Newcastle United defender Olivier Bernard has taken over from Austin Carney as the new boss of The Citizens.

Durham City, which plays on an artificial pitch, are in Northern League Division One, the ninth tier of English football.

Mr Bernard, from France, was signed from Lyon by then Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson in 2000 and was part of their 2002-3 Champions League squad.

The 34-year-old, who lives in Whitley Bay, played 145 times for the Magpies between 2000 and 2005 before retiring six years ago.

He said: “I want to make Durham one of the best feeder clubs in the North-East.

“At the moment, I don't think the area develops enough youngsters.”

Durham City spent seven seasons in Division Three North during the 1920s, which remain their only years as a Football League club.

In 1938 the club was disbanded but reformed in 1950 and has been a non-league club ever since.

Durham City are currently eighth in the Northern League in their second season, having resigned from the Evo-Stik League Division One North at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

The Citizens were as high as the then-named Unibond Premier Division in 2009-10 but ended that season with zero points after their principal sponsor pulled out of funding the club when it was revealed City could not gain ascension to the Conference owing to the artificial surface at the club's New Ferens Park.

They finished the season with players from the local sixth form centre, although they did pull off a memorable victory against FC United of Manchester under the leadership of Richard Ord.

They were docked six points that season for playing an ineligible player under a false name.

After two seasons in the lower division, the club decided to resign and return to the Northern League to save on travel costs incurred in the higher division, joining the league at the same time as Darlington, who went on to sign the likes of Amar and Arjun Purewal, David Dowson, and Stephen Thompson from City, who had all performed with distinction at a higher level.

Mr Bernard said: “The ambition is to get back to Conference in five to seven years.

“At the moment, I am not thinking about the problem of the pitch because that is a few promotions away.”

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