DARLINGTON have pulled off a transfer coup with the arrival of an experienced midfielder from Gateshead.

Phil Turnbull has joined after being released from his contract at the International Stadium, where he had been a regular for eight seasons and has performed a u-turn on a decision to extend his stay after deciding to go part-time.

Turnbull, 28, requested to leave Gateshead after accepting an offer to become a PE teacher, though he wished to continue playing as a semi-pro so becomes Quakers’ latest new signing.

“It’s a massive coup for the club,” said delighted Darlington manager Martin Gray, after bringing in a player who played at Wembley for the Heed in the Conference play-off final at the end of the 2013-14 season.

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“It sets the standard of players that I’m looking for. I’m always looking for ways to improve the squad, always looking to be better in every position, and he fits the bill perfectly for us.

“He’s experienced, he’s the right age, he’s ambitious and he’s played at a much higher level.

“This summer he’s had chances to play in the Football League and from other clubs in the Conference, but he’s turned them down because he’s looking long-term and has been offered a new job, so going part-time with us suits both parties perfectly.”

Turnbull will play in Saturday’s friendly at Durham City, as will fellow new boys Kevin Burgess and Adam Nowakowki.

Gray added: “I’m very happy with our recruitment this summer and looking forward to getting back into training on Tuesday. They’re all in on Tuesday and it’s good to have everyone in together from the first day back.”

Winger Rob Youhill, who has also joined this summer, will be unavailable on Saturday due to being at the wedding of team-mate Nathan Cartman.

Like his brother Stephen, who is at Blyth Spartans, Turnbull came through the ranks at Hartlepool United and made his first appearance for Gateshead in 2005 during a loan from Victoria Park.

After leaving Pools and joining York City, Turnbull returned to the North-East in 2008 when signed for Gateshead permanently and was a key figure in back-to-back promotions to the Conference.

Although he missed the final three months of the most recent campaign with a toe injury, he was offered a deal by new Heed boss Malcolm Crosby. But after initially agreeing to extend his stay at the International Stadium earlier this month, Turnbull has decided to quit and joined Quakers.

He said: “I’ve had eight great years and without a doubt, it has been the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make and I certainly haven’t made it lightly.

“When the club was put up for sale I realised how vulnerable I was.

“I’m a worrier and always wondered what I would be doing in two years’ time.

“The opportunity to go into teaching was too good to knock back. I’ll combine teaching with playing part-time football, but I’ll be a Gateshead fan for life.”