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Plenty to ponder for boss Liddle
Embattled Darlington's hopes of strengthening their team for tomorrow's game with Fleetwood were shattered last night.
Quakers had lined up four loan signings from a pair of North-East clubs who were due to train with Darlington today, but the moves have been blocked by officials from the Football Conference.
And The Northern Echo understands that a high-ranking Fleetwood official has become involved in the issue.
It is believed that he contacted Quakers to express concern over the club bringing in players while being under a transfer embargo, before alerting the Conference to make it clear that Fleetwood did not approve of the loans.
Craig Liddle said: "Fleetwood have been on to the Conference, I don't think they're happy that we were allowed to bring loan players in when we've got an embargo."
However, Darlington had previously understood that the Conference allowed clubs in such a perilous position - they have only nine senior players - to bring in loan players to ensure that the competition is not undermined.
Last night a senior Quakers source told The Northern Echo: "At the start of the week we were told we could bring players in who weren't experienced, senior players, then today it was under-19s only and now it's no players at all."
He added that the Conference's stance was that Darlington are not permitted to make any loan signings as they are able to field 11 players because all of their youth team players are registered to play.
However, Quakers have only nine senior pros including Paul Arnison, wanted by Wrexham and nursing a calf strain and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson who is being courted by Lincoln.
Demonstrating how desperate the situation is, Liddle, 40, has registered himself to play - seven years after retiring. He has taken the number four squad number that he wore throughout his time as a player with the club.
The Conference were contacted last night but were unavailable for comment.
Yesterday afternoon Liddle had to call Middlesbrough and Newcastle United to say their players could no longer join Darlington on a temporary basis.
The clubs had answered Quakers' SOS call with a goalkeeper, a defender, a midfielder and a striker all ready to play tomorrow.
Liddle said: "I had four loan players lined up to come in, but then the Conference told us that you can only bring under-19s in.
"The lads I was going to bring in were all second year pros, so aged 19 or 20, but the Conference are saying that they've got to be under-19.
"They think they're doing us a favour, but I'm trying to protect our own kids - I'm not going to damage someone else's.
"We spoke to the Conference to tell them that we were bringing these players in, but then we were told that they couldn't come in and the players are naturally disappointed as well.
"These deals had been worked on for over a week, but it's been killed with one swoop. The Conference will not change their minds, now but the game's been made far more difficult than it should've been."
The Conference's stance means that 17-year-old Jordan Nixon will make his debut in goal tomorrow.
At the beginning of the week Liddle hoped to sign an experienced shot-stopper and had lined up an ex-Darlington team-mate of his.
He then had a goalkeeper on standby from a Premier League club, not in the North-East, but youth team keeper Nixon will now start against Fleetwood.
Being blocked from bringing in loans means that four youngsters are being denied first-team experience, and the managers of both Newcastle and Middlesbrough are keen to help Darlington.
Asked about the possibility of providing loan players to the club, Magpies' manager Alan Pardew said: "Of course we'd try to help them. That doesn't mean we have players who would fit in the team and I can afford to let them go.
"But he [Craig Liddle] only has to pick up the phone to me and I will try to help him."
And Boro boss Tony Mowbray said: "As a club, if we can help them in any way with regard to young players, then that's something we could also try to do."
During a frantic day of discussions at The Northern Echo Arena yesterday, Quakers finally resolved a registration wrangle that at one stage meant they could not field a team tomorrow.
The decision by administrator to make players redundant on Monday caused confusion and yesterday the Football Association and the Professional Footballers' Association were required to find a solution.
Liddle explained: "At about 3pm we didn't have a single player available, not one - including the youth team. When I got that call I felt like giving up.
"We've been dealing with the FA and their rulings which meant that they weren't going to allow anyone to play.
"There's been so many things happening, but I've managed to rectify the problem so I think we've got enough bodies to play now.
"The PFA stepped in to help so the players are now eligible to play. Harvey (Madden, administrator) was speaking to them and he has done great for us so that we can at least put a side out."
But Liddle's reaction was lukewarm when asked about the chances of former Middlesbrough striker Jan Aage Fjortoft turning out.
The Norweigan, who played alongside Liddle at Boro, announced his availability on Twitter this week.
Liddle said: "I appreciate the offer, but he's 45. I played with him at Middlesbrough and he's a great lad, but I think we need someone a little bit younger."
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