Twelve months later than scheduled, and in a different country, Darlington defender Joe Kendrick is relishing his first opportunity to compete in the cut and thrust world of league football.

The 21-year-old has featured heavily in Quakers' pre-season programme and looks certain to make his professional bow against Grimsby Town tomorrow, but if fate played a different hand he'd be gearing up for the new season in Germany.

A year ago, after being freed by Newcastle United, he made a dream move to Bundesliga outfit 1860 Munich.

He signed a three-year contract at one of the country's biggest clubs and, after failing to make the breakthrough at St James Park, was looking forward to making a new start in life, even learning to speak the language.

But the move quickly turned sour after suffering a broken leg which ultimately brought a premature end to the Irishman's Bavarian adventure.

Kendrick, who never go to grace the 1860 first-team, said: "Germany went well for the first couple of weeks but then I got an unfortunate injury and things went from bad to worse because the manager who signed me got sacked.

"I was out for three-and-a-half months, it should've been just two but the operation didn't go too well. I had a screw inserted in my foot which is still there now, it was going me terrible bother and took a while to settle down but I'm OK now, it feels perfect.

"You always hope for the best in any situation, but it never worked out, I just had a bad year and now I'm looking to get on with my career.

"There was talk of a possible loan move to Hearts in January but it didn't come off so I was stuck in the reserves in Germany because the new manager didn't really give me a chance.

"I didn't get much of a look-in at Newcastle. I was a regular reserve team player but that was about it, so coming to Darlington is a bit like getting my career going at last.

"It feels good to be back playing again and I'm looking forward to playing in front of a good crowd on Saturday."

Capable of filling a number of roles across the back, he also considers himself able to play left-midfield and it is in the left wing-back position he looks certain to be deployed tomorrow.

A Republic of Ireland youth international, Kendrick was in demand when he made the return journey to England this summer and, although QPR offered the possibility of moving into the Coca-Cola Championship, he preferred Darlington.

"I had offers from Gillingham and QPR, they wanted me to go down there for a trial for a week or two but I didn't really fancy that, I'd rather stay up here," he said.

"It made sense to come to Darlington. I've still got lots of friends in the area from my time playing for Newcastle and I liked what the manager had to say so it made Darlington the ideal club for me.

"We've had a couple of good results in pre-season and played some really good football at times. We've had a few trialists in, now we just need a bit of time to gel and play as a team."

Meanwhile, Gregory Pearson will train with Darlington again today in a bid to earn himself a loan move to the Quakers, but Hodgson remains undecided on the West Ham United teenager.

He recently signed a two-year contract at Upton Park but the League One outfit are keen for him to gain first-team experience by going out on loan.

* Darlington are hoping for a good crowd tomorrow but are asking supporters not to leave purchasing their tickets until the last minute. Tickets can be bought today at the reduced price of £13 adults (£15 on matchdays), £7 concessions.

The ticket office will be open tomorrow from 9am until kick-off. Concessionary tickets will be £7 throughout the season.

All season ticket holders should have now received their ticket for tomorrow's game but anyone who hasn't is advised to contact the ticket office on (01325) 387030.

The club has apologised for the delay in delivering full season ticket books, but say that due to the uncertainty surrounding the club during the close season items such as tickets and club memorabilia were ordered late and suppliers could not meet deadlines.

Full season ticket books should be sent by the week ending August 15.

Read more about the Quakers here.