DARLINGTON have had grounds for concern for decades, and the latest instalment in their seemingly never-ending quest for a new home has been revealed.

Club chief executive David Johnston today tells The Northern Echo potential sites have been identified for a multi-million pound stadium with a capacity of between 5,000 and 8,000.

Read more: Darlington FC to leave Blackwell Meadows and move to new stadium

The development will be met warmly by many supporters, though perhaps those not as close to the club will wonder why Quakers are packing their bags again.

It was in 2016 when they returned to town, an occasion lauded as a new dawn - Darlington were heading home.

The club and supporters have long since felt, however, they are not going to progress as long as they are based at Darlington Rugby Club, which is Quakers’ current designated ‘home’ venue.

In reality, Darlington have not had a home since George Reynolds decided a town with a population of 90,000 needed a 25,000-capacity stadium.

In May 2003, he uprooted the club from Feethams. It had been Quakers’ quaint home since 1883, in a town centre location and with an ideal capacity - they would kill for that now.

Reynolds’ all-seater concrete and steel tribute to his own ego was always going to end in tears and in 2012, after nine seasons and three administrations Darlington rid themselves of the millstone partly responsible for the state of their finances and headed for Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park.

Being exiled out of town was not ideal, and there is a belief attendances would have been far higher in the immediate years after 2012 had the team remained in the town as they were winning most weeks back then.

But the arena would’ve proven too expensive to maintain. It’s in Mowden Rugby Club’s hands now, and they appear to be making a good fist of it, especially if concerts by midranking pop stars of yesteryear appeal to you.

Incidentally, Darlington did explore the option of an Arena return, but operational costs were prohibitive and as the place ages the infrastructure would have required more money pumping in.

The time based at Heritage Park was a huge success, with three promotions the highlights, Darlington climbing back up the leagues faster than most observers felt possible when the FA demoted them four divisions for failing to exit administration in 2012 by the proper procedures.

But there was always an intention to return to the town and that moment came in December 2016 at not inconsiderable cost.

Two stands were erected and of the £750,000 spent at Blackwell, Quakers covered £500,000, with £300,000 of that coming from fans digging deep.

Around £140,000 came from the Darlington FC Supporters Group, while grants from the Football Stadium Improvement Fund added £208,000. The rugby club and council footed the bill for new changing rooms and a car park, totalling £250,000.

The first match was a 3-2 win over Halifax Town in front of 3,000, but some complained of a poor view, an issue which remains as flat-standing around the pitch rather than terracing making it a challenge to watch the action, particularly when there’s a good crowd in.

Sadly, it’s not much of a place for watching football, and not somewhere an ambitious club would be playing. Go elsewhere in the National League North and it’s not dissimilar to Brackley, Leamington, Farsley or Guiseley.

Blackwell is an exercise in meeting the Football Association’s ground grading requirements; enabling an FA official with a clipboard to put a tick beside the correct number of turnstiles, fire exits and toilets.

Except it fundamentally failed to meet the minimum ground grading in Darlington’s first season at the venue, as not having enough covered seats meant the club were barred from taking part in the play-offs.

They have since added more seats, but have floundered in midtable ever since; existing, not competing.

Crucially, there is no scope for improving the venue further. Any ambition to build bigger stands is stilted by a major water pipeline running underneath the pitch which prevents permanent structures being built.

Furthermore, Quakers showed the landlords how the ground could be developed, but they do not share the football club’s enthusiasm for home improvements. They were perhaps concerned about losing their identity and the football club taking over.

From the start, cynics predicted the football and rugby clubs would be uneasy bedfellows and it does appear they are locked in a loveless marriage. While there’s respect at boardroom level, not all supporters feel at home at Blackwell and Quakers manager Alun Armstrong has had plenty to say in the past.

He made a damning assessment of the pitch this season, saying in September: “I couldn’t believe it when I came in today and saw it. It’s not acceptable.”

And in March he said: “It’s like a farmer’s field. It’s a rugby field at the end of the day, it’s not been treated as a football field and I don’t know why when you consider how much money we pay to play here.”

Quakers’ inability to make much revenue on a matchday has been a source of frustration, with the football club understood to receive only a fraction of bar and kiosk takings.

Darlington signed a 20-year licence to play at Blackwell, and The Northern Echo understands they intend to honour their obligations to the landlords, which is just as well given Quakers will be playing there for at least another two seasons.

Ultimately, it’s a rugby club and Darlington Rugby Club like it that way, whereas Darlington Football Club have aspirations to be in the Football League again one day, hence Johnson’s alternative solution.

The key question is, however, where has he got in mind for the new ground?

The reaction among the more cynical of Darlington’s support will be ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’, and who can blame them. We have been here before.

In the early ’90s, supporters were told a new roof would be erected on the Polam end at Feethams. It never happened, and neither did ambitious plans for a redevelopment of Feethams which were unveiled by the club in 1996.

And Blackwell has not been the new dawn Quakers had hoped, so now the hope is they will get it right this time.