HAVING begun his career with hometown team Preston North End, new Darlington signing Josh Heaton has aspirations of returning to the EFL, though his focus for now is on helping Quakers move up the table.

The 21-year-old made his Darlington debut in Saturday’s 3-3 draw at Kidderminster Harriers that leaves Quakers in 13th, part of a back-three as boss Tommy Wright tried a 3-5-2 formation.

Whether Wright employs it again this weekend at home to Tamworth remains to be seen, particularly as fellow new signing Luke Trotman is a right-back.

But Heaton’s arrival combined with the return to availability of Gary Brown at least gives the manager option to rest Dom Collins, who has been playing with a foot injury.

Asked if he is eyeing a return to full-time football, Heaton said: “That is the aim and if it doesn’t happen this summer then maybe it will be the year after.

“I want to help Darlington as much as I can, I won’t be leaving at the first chance, I’ll be weighing up my options, Darlington are the club I’m playing for and that’s where my focus is.

“I want to help Darlington go further up the table and hopefully to promotion.”

Heaton did not make a senior appearance for Preston, who caught the eye at non-league clubs Tamworth and Bamber Bridge before going on a trial with Quakers in the summer, though a move was not completed after he suffered a broken collarbone.

“I hadn’t given up on the move,” added the centre-back. “One thing led to another and I wasn’t able to sign, I’ve got myself back fit now, have played a few games and then received the call again from Darlington.

“I weighed up my options and decided this was the right move for me to hopefully help me progress and get into the Football League.

“Playing for Preston was the aim, but growing up there, knowing a lot of people in the town I felt a bit watched.

“Maybe I wasn’t ready at the time. So to play for a club outside the area might suit me, there’ll be more privacy.”