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Chris recalls his Senior moment one year on
FROM euphoria to despair, administration and then relegation - even by Darlington's standards it's been a remarkable 12 months.
The purchase of the club by their supporters last week welcomed the beginning of a new era, though most followers hoped that winning at Wembley at the end of last season would herald the beginning of an upturn in fortunes.
In much the same way that the club was saved last week, the FA Trophy final against Mansfield Town went to the wire with the moment that no Darlington fan will ever forget coming in the final minute of extra-time.
It's one year ago today that Chris Senior scored the most dramatic of goals. Two yards out after a Tommy Wright header had bounced off the top of the crossbar, the diminutive striker nodded home in front of around 9,000 euphoric Darlington supporters who enjoyed club's greatest day.
"I said to Emma when I knew I was going to speak to the Echo about Wembley: 'It's a year ago this week you know, it's flown by'," said Senior, whose wife gave birth to their first child, Zachary eight months ago.
"The year has disappeared in a flash, but quite a lot of things have happened since then.
"With the joys of Twitter and social networking it makes it so easy to keep in touch. I've kept an eye on the websites and I speak to some of the lads that are there, Paul Arnison, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Aaron Brown, and it's just sad.
"I can't believe what's happened and I hope they can find a solution. The main thing is that the fans still have a club to support.
"I'm not sure what I feel about the club leaving the town, let's just hope they can get it sorted eventually."
That the 30-year-old takes so much interest in his former club says much for the affable Yorkshireman who is surely the only footballer able to say that his final touch of the ball for a club won a cup final at Wembley.
He was jettisoned four days later when the squad met at The Northern Echo Arena before heading to a civic reception in the town centre.
Thousands gathered to celebrate, but around 45 minutes earlier Cooper and assistant Richard Dryden had informed Senior, signed by Simon Davey one year earlier, that he was surplus to requirements.
Senior says, however: "Life's too short to be bitter about things like that, but at the time it was devastating. Maybe Mark, on reflection, might have handled it slightly differently, but it happened and we move on so I'm not going to lose any more sleep over it.
"People come and go in football, that happens. At the time I was quite upset, but I've had time to reflect on it and maybe Mark and Rich were justified in letting me go.
"On a totally selfish note, it's just as well they made that decision because now that we've got Zachary I'd have been totally stumped financially.
"I would've been making the trip up the A1 with Bridgey from Huddersfield and it's not an easy commute - we'd have been stopping halfway up the A1 after running out of petrol!"
Being released so soon after his career zenith may have been a shock, but the omens had not been good.
Senior's medal went missing soon after captain Ian Miller lifted the Trophy which itself was later accidentally damaged by goalkeeper Sam Russell.
Senior explained: "After we'd collected the medals we gave them back to someone at the FA so that we could go on the pitch and celebrate. By the time I got into the changing room after doing all the interviews all the medals had gone.
"I think one of the younger lads that weren't involved took it, I think it was Dan Burn, but I'll let him off because he's bigger than me!
"In the end I got one and it sits proudly on my mantel piece. Richard Dryden came to an Alfreton friendly and gave it to me, so that was a nice touch."
With a place in Quakers folklore secured, he signed a two-year deal with Alfreton with whom he played against Darlington last August and received a huge ovation.
That came soon after a huge billboard of him holding the Trophy was erected on the stadium exterior. "It's brilliant, but I think they could've picked a better photo because I've got my eyes shut!"
But it did not work out at Alfreton, who loaned him to Conference North club Guiseley where, ironically, another of the strikers is James Walshaw who Cooper signed for Quakers following Senior's exit.
Cooper may have brought Senior's Darlington career to a sudden conclusion - having scored seven goals in 35 appearances - yet he holds no grudges, instead preferring to reflect on the Wembley memories.
"Looking back, Mark and Rich deserve a lot of credit for the way they handled the game," he said. "The preparation was superb, on the Friday we trained at QPR and went to Wembley and the whole of that week is a fond memory.
"I had to prove my fitness after being out for three weeks with a calf injury. I remember the media day at the Arena. All the media were down, the lads got their suits and you could feel the excitement building.
"On my laptop I have footage of the journey on the bus - me, Chandler, Sammy Russell and Gaz Smith sat around a table with our music on and the excitement was immense.
"On the day of the game I didn't even know if I was going to be involved so I was nervous about that, never mind thinking about playing. The rest is history.
"I don't remember much about the game because all I ever think about is the goal and the celebrations."
Those moments are captured in a video that has been viewed over 21,000 times on YouTube, a moment that many Darlington supporters will reminisce about as they look back on their greatest day.
Senior admits to watching it and he said: "It's summed up brilliantly in the commentary, the emotion, and I've got the DVD at home. We've had friends come round who weren't at the game and they've asked to see the goal and they don't need to ask twice.
"I've got my shirt from the game framed with a couple of pictures either side and in one of them Paul Terry is stuffing turf into my mouth and to this day I don't know why he did it and he can't give me answer! I couldn't breath as it was and I think I was about to start crying like a big girl!
"I know Tyrone Thompson, who played for Mansfield that day, so I've got his shirt, I got a few programmes, lots of photos and I've also kept all the cuttings from The Northern Echo.
"It's coming up to the anniversary so it makes you think about the day, but it'll always be in my memory.
"A couple of weeks later I was on holiday watching the Champions League final at Wembley. It was Manchester United against Barcelona and I'm thinking 'I've played on that stage and scored the winner'. It's something I'll take to my grave."
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