The last few months have seen one of most turbulent pre-seasons in history with hundreds of players cast on the scrapheap.

The collapse of the ITV Digital deal was the catalyst which signalled the end of Football League clubs spending big money on a whim.

Chairmen, such as Darlington's George Reynolds, applauded the end of the television money as a blessing in disguise.

He believes the end of ITV Digital has provided football with a much-needed kick up the backside and signals the beginning of a new era; an era in which football clubs should take care of their finances more prudently and not spend beyond their means.

This new policy has been evident at Feethams this summer as Quakers saw eight players and two coaches depart, with only three arrivals coming through the club's doors.

Paul Heckingbottom was the most notable to leave as he headed for Norwich City and the first division.

Other's ending their spells at Feethams were Phil Brumwell, David Brightwell, Steve Harper, Clint Marcelle, Adam Marsh, Keith Finch, Andrew Grainger, reserve team coaches Gary Bennett and Jim Montgomery - all deemed surplus to requirements.

No player whose contract expired was re-signed, which was no big surprise.

However, despite Reynolds welcoming the new, prudent era, remarkably he remains a big-spender. Or he does in relative terms at least.

Only five other Division Three clubs have signed more players than Darlington this summer - Bristol Rovers, Hull City, Lincoln City, Oxford United and Swansea City - with some not fetching in any fresh blood at all, which suggests Quakers should be thankful for the incoming transfers.

He is in the minority having overseen three new signings - Ashley Nicholls, Matt Clarke and Ryan Valentine - and Quakers were very confident of bringing in Carlisle's Stuart Whitehead until that deal hit the buffers.

The trio are all young, potentially great and full of enthusiasm.

However, is that really good enough?

Potential cannot be banked upon and enthusiasm alone will not win matches. Experience is a big factor in Division Three.

Rochdale, a club no bigger than Darlington, have this summer attracted the signatures of two players with proven track records in the Third Division: Lee Hodges and Chris Beech.

Classy winger Hodges has been voted into the Third Division's team of the year for the last two seasons while Beech is back in the League basement after four years at Huddersfield before which he was a great success at Hartlepool where he averaged a goal every four games from midfield.

The financial outlay on Valentine and Nicholls combined won't match that of either Hodges or Beech, and that's because the Rochdale pair are proven quality, while until last Saturday, Quakers' new signings hadn't played a first-team game in their careers.

Valentine, Nicholls and Clarke were all wanted by other clubs, but is the acquisition of three players with little experience behind them enough to transform Darlington from last season's 15th place finish, to a play-off spot?

Taylor, like every manager and fan, is still seeking a 20-goal-a-season striker; the man who will fire your team into the top three.

But it is all too easy to criticise Reynolds for not bankrolling the capture of football's holy grail.

It should be remembered he has sanctioned three new players and there are clubs out there who wish they had the clout to make just one solitary signing.

The new season has not brought about the optimistic tone that it did three years ago, but manager Tommy Taylor twice got Leyton Orient to play-off finals while working under a tight budget and it should not be forgotten his three signings last season all proved to be good players.

Ian Clark - already on the scoresheet this term - as well as loanees Dan Chillingworth and Gary Caldwell were proof that Taylor knows a good player when he sees one.

If Quakers can avoid the injuries which have plagued the club in recent years and can continue the form which they ran into at the very end of last season, they might stand a chance of creeping into the play-offs.

But that's a big might.