DAVID Hodgson could never have anticipated what he was letting himself in for when he made a shock return to Darlington in November last year.

Indeed, few could have imagined Hodgson would be the man then chairman George Reynolds would turn to in his hour of need, given their past.

But with relegation looming and crowds wavering, Reynolds realised that there was more to running a football club than marble floors.

This time last year Reynolds heralded a new era as the club said farewell to Feethams and moved to a multi-million pound stadium. It was his vision which came close to putting the club out of business, but for the intervention of the Stirling Consortium and Hodgson.

Now the club is returning itself to fans after five years in the clouds.

Major strides have already been taken in building bridges between the club and the local community, businesses and the media, while Reynolds' departure has been signified with the return of the popular hooped shirts and the old club crest.

The reverberations of administration may be felt for some time yet but at least there is still a club.

Replacing top scorer Barry Conlon has provided Hodgson with his biggest headache so far. No fewer than ten strikers have been used in pre-season.

And following the success of Danny Graham's loan move last season, Hodgson is likely to make further forays in that direction this time.

At the back, Hodgson has options. While Sam Russell and Michael Price compete for the No. 1 jersey, the arrival of Curtis Fleming will keep Joey Hutchinson, Craig Liddle and Matt Clarke on their toes.

And with skipper Neil Maddison playing the holding role in midfield, a big season is expected from the attack-minded Mark Convery.

While Quakers may not be blessed with the strength and depth their rivals can boast, Hodgson has enough tactical nous to get the best out of what he's got.

Last season, one of the few luxuries the boss had was a fully-fit squad at his disposal and that proved crucial in the successful fight against the drop.

This time around, a top half finish is a realistic target and much will depend on how well the smallest squad in the division copes with the inevitable scourge of injuries and suspensions.

Read more about the Quakers here.