DARLINGTON boss Martin Gray admitted signing Liam Hatch was the “easiest deal I’ve ever done” after the striker revealed his desire to re-join the club.

Hatch became Quakers’ third summer signing late on Thursday night after Gray received a call from the 32-year-old, who had been released by Conference Premier side Gateshead earlier in the day.

The former Peterborough and Barnet front man outlined his desire to return to the club and Gray moved quickly to tie up the player on a one-year deal.

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“The first I heard of an opportunity to sign him was two o’clock on Thursday afternoon and by 10pm that night it was all complete,” Gray revealed. “It all happened very quickly. He found out he wasn’t being kept on at Gateshead and rang me on his way back down and said he was really interested in coming back to the club.

“He’s shown a hunger and an appetite and that’s what you want to hear as a manager. It’s the easiest deal I’ve ever done.

“It wasn’t about money or dropping down the leagues, Liam just wanted to come back to the club and be part of it again. He’s had some good times at the club in the past and it was music to my ears that he wanted to join us and try to get the club back to where it should be.”

Gray knows all about Hatch having been at the club when he initially joined on loan from Posh in 2008. The Hitchin-born striker went on to be part of the FA Trophy-winning side in 2011 and the Quakers boss believes re-signing Hatch is a big statement from the club.

He said: “I’ve worked with Liam in the past. He got off to a great start then and I’ve kept in touch with him ever since.

“He’s played in the Football League and the Conference throughout his career so he brings vast experience of playing at that level and also in cup finals and play-off finals at Wembley.

“It’s a massive coup to sign him – He can play centre forward and centre half so effectively I’ve signed two players in one. He’s at a good age and I’m absolutely delighted that we were able to get a deal sorted.”

Hatch joins former Whitby pair Graeme Armstrong and Tom Portas through the doors at Darlington and Gray believes their arrivals send out a message to the rest of the Evo-Stik First Division North.

“I’ve over the moon with the three signings we’ve made,” Gray said. “Liam, Graeme and Tom, they’ve all played at a higher level and that shows our intent on taking this club to a higher level. We need to improve the squad and so far we’ve managed to do so by bringing in quality players.”