Darlington thought they'd seen the end of Andy Collett when he announced his retirement last season but the fans' favourite remains at the club as a coach and wishes he was still first choice between the sticks.

Shortly before the end of last season, aged just 31, when many keepers are still in their prime, Collett was forced to hang up his gloves after over ten years and almost 300 appearances since making his professional debut for home-town club Middlesbrough.

After finally conceding defeat in his battle against a shoulder injury, bringing to an end his reign as Quakers' undisputed number one, Collett has joined the club's backroom staff as goalkeeping coach and can take some credit for Sam Russell's man-of-the-match performance on Saturday.

After a series of match-winning saves against Grimsby Town, Russell took the plaudits and although pleased to see his protg perform in his first game since joining from Boro, Collett admitted his day was tinged with a little disappointment.

"After a good result, with the fans cheering and everybody on a high, I felt like a spare part," said Collett, whose final of 146 games for the club was the League Cup tie at Wolves in September.

"I'm still involved at the club, still around all the lads, and it's something that's been said before but coaching is the next best thing to being a footballer.

"But you would rather be playing, that is something you do miss.

"The Darlington fans were absolutely fantastic with me and one of my big disappointments is that I won't get a chance to play in front of them anymore."

Manager David Hodgson brought Collett to the club in 1999 and this summer asked him to become Darlington's new goalkeeper coach in place of the outgoing Mark Prudhoe, a Darlington legend, who Collett names as one of his mentors.

Collett said: "I've played under a few good goalkeeper coaches but two that stand out are Mike Kelly at Middlesbrough, who has also been with the England team several times, and Mark Prudhoe, who was with the club last year. I also worked under Peter Bonetti at Bristol Rovers.

"I've taken ideas from each of them and I like to think I have some pretty modern ideas of my own.

"If I enjoy it this year I may get some coaching badges but it's something that comes naturally to me.

"I don't feel uncomfortable doing it and I think the goalkeepers are happy with the way I coach."

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