WITH a raft of new signings imminent lined up to replace the players who left at the end of the season, Darlington are in the midst of a substantial summer of change, but one player unaffected by the comings and goings will be Stephen Thompson.

Now a certified club legend having made 301 appearances and scored 94 goals, the Peterlee-born forward is a crowd favourite and will be central to Quakers’ team, says Alun Armstrong.

The new manager says that the 30-year-old is assured of his place in the side next season, as is fellow long-serving team-mate Terry Galbraith.

There was a short period stage last season when Thompson was on the bench, and he even briefly played at right-back, which triggered Armstrong into considering trying to take him to Blyth Spartans.

Armstrong said: “I’ve always wanted to work with Thommo. I noticed he played right-back once and that was when I thought I would have to see if I could get him to Blyth!

“I didn’t make an approach in the end, I knew how long he had left on his contract and I couldn’t afford him, but I would’ve loved him at Blyth because he would’ve gone into that team like a duck to water.

“He’s my type of player and can win a game by himself.

“So I’m excited at building the team with the players I’ve got in mind, with him in it, so hopefully I can get them deals done once I start.”

Armstrong officially begins his Darlington tenure on Monday, and it will not be long before new signings are made, with up to five deals understood to be close to completion.

While Jonny Maddison, Alex Henshall and Ben O’Hanlon left Darlington at the end of the season, plus the loanees, there is a possibility that some of those that remain under contract could yet leave Quakers too.

Armstrong added: “I’ll get everyone’s phone numbers and speak to every player and ask whether they want to stay and fight and get on board.

“But first and foremost there’s two I definitely want involved and that’s Tez and Thommo. They are my absolute certainties.”

Darlington have announced a handful of pre-season friendlies, with more to be revealed:

Saturday, July 6 – Darlington v Motherwell (2pm)

Monday, July 15 – Bishop Auckland (7pm)

Saturday, July 20 – Richmond Town v Darlington (2pm)

Tuesday, July 23Northallerton v Darlington (7.30pm)