Martin Gray lauded the arrival of new signing Adam Mitchell, and admitted he hopes his latest signing goes on to bigger and better things.
The energetic winger, who ended 2013-14 with Darlington after being released by Sunderland, harbours dreams of returning to the full-time game and was with Gateshead for the beginning of their pre-season training.
Heed boss Gary Mills opted against offering the 20-year-old a contract, so Gray has stepped in and agreed a two-year deal after Saturday’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Billingham Synthonia.
“You want to see the lads progress and if he gets a chance then we would help him, as we’ve helped others in the past,” said Gray.
“Hopefully that situation comes for him one day to move up, but in the meantime he’s got a job to do for us if he’s going to make that happen.
“The kid’s got ability and he’s got a great attitude, that’s what I like about him. He’s got appetite and he wants to play higher so he ticks all the boxes for us.”
Mitchell, from Middleton-in-Teesdale, is the elder brother of Quakers youth team product David and Gray believes that the club have pulled of a coup in bringing the winger to the club on a permanent basis.
He added: “He did well for us last season, he went to Gateshead in pre-season and it didn’t work out for him, but he’s now committed to us.
“He’s got loads of energy, he’s bright on the ball, you can see a goal in him and he’ll make the squad better. It’s a real big signing.
“Pre-season is coming towards the end and lots of lads get their futures sorted out at the back end of last season, so they get a bit twitchy and want to get an agreement in place so they know what they’re doing for the next year.”
Mitchell was one of nine players to be given 90 minutes on Saturday as Gray opted against wholesale substitutions, though he was again without several players and the situation remains a source of frustration for a manager still adapting to working in the semi-professional ranks.
There was no Jack Walker (holiday), David Dowson (working abroad) or Amar Purewal (at a wedding), while Terry Galbraith has a minor injury.
His team were lacklusture before the break, trailing 2-0 at half-time and it would have been more were it not for wasteful finishing and good goalkeeping by Peter Jameson.
Scorers for Synners were D Dillon on 11 minutes from the penalty spot after Tom Portas had tripped K Hughes, and Michael Sweet got on the scoresheet via a Chris Hunter deflection.
“It’s about getting lads minutes on the pitch,” said Gray. “I think that’s what pre-season is about for any club. Eight or nine players got 90 minutes under their belt, which gets us closer to being ready for the start of the season.
“The frustrating thing for me is that we had four or five regulars from last season unavailable, so we’ve not had a settled squad to work with throughout pre-season. I’m sure most clubs at this level are the same, so you’ve just got to get on with it.
“We want to get through it without any injuries and we will start to drill down soon what our team is going to be at the start of the season.”
Assisted by the arrival of lively substitute Dale Hopson and a switch in formation, Darlington were sharper in the second half, playing less direct football and keeping possession for longer.
They scored a consolation in the 87th minute when Stephen Thompson netted from the penalty spot following a handball.
Quakers next play on Saturday at Whitby Town, but Graeme Armstrong will miss the match against the club from whom Darlington signed him this summer.
Gray added: “Armstrong is away for a fortnight, Thompson is away for a week, so that’s two big players for us that are going to be out of the country.
“In training this week we’ll work on our eight or nine lads that we know are going to start the first game of the season, but this is also an opportunity for lads who have been on the fringes to try and get into the starting line-up.”
Darlington (4-4-2): Jameson; Brown, White, Hunter, J Armstrong (Young 77); A Mitchell, Portas, Robinson (Hopson 60), Thompson; G Armstrong, Hatch. Sub (not used): Bell (gk)