After playing against his ex-team-mates for the first time since leaving Darlington, Sam Russell revealed his disappointment at seeing his former club relegated from the Conference.

The Middlesbrough-born keeper received warm applause from the Darlington supporters who travelled to Gloucestershire for Quakers' 2-0 defeat on Saturday, the club's penultimate match in this relegation season.

Dropping down a division was the last thing on anyone's mind at The Northern Echo Arena at the beginning of the campaign, and Russell is "heartbroken" at what's happened to the club he had two spells with.

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"It's unbelievable, that's all you can say unbelievable, who would've thought it would come to this," he said.

"I know we had a bad run at the start of the season, but you'd still never have expected relegation. That's football, you can never trust anything.

"I'm gutted and heartbroken at what's gone on.

"The whole Wembley experience only seems like yesterday. I remember coming back for pre-season thinking that we were going to have a chance this year.

"It was upbeat and it was great coming into training, and then it all changed and all you can say is that it's been unbelievable."

The reception Russell received from Quakers fans on Saturday demonstrated that he remains well-liked by supporters who watched him play his final game for the club in January.

That was the 3-0 defeat at Barrow, and he said: "Ever since I've left the Darlo fans have been superb. They've been in touch on Twitter and I don't think there's been a bad word said about me so I couldn't have asked for any more.

"I even told the gaffer here at Forest Green that I didn't want to leave Darlo, I never wanted to.

"I have thought should I have stuck it out, but you only have one career and I think most people in my position, after being offered a two-and-a-half year deal would've done the same thing. I hope people don't hold that against me.

"I was at the club for that long over two spells, I've got a few mates there who are friends for life. And then there's the other lads like Jamie Chandler who left, I keep in touch with them all.

"I hope the club keeps on going because I want the best for it. I don't think any football club deserves what's gone on there."

Russell even refused to rule out a third spell with Quakers, saying: "I'd never rule out coming back. What's happened at Darlington is football isn't it and you never know what's going to happen in the future.

"But for now my focus is on Forest Green. We've got a good young bunch of lads and I think we could be worth a couple of quid for promotion next year."