HAVING seen his own son suffer a miserable loan spell last season, Alun Armstrong has warned that Tyrone O’Neill could be better off remaining with Darlington for the remainder of the season rather than joining another club in a higher division.

O’Neill is on loan from Middlesbrough and has seven goals for Darlington, five of them coming in the last four games.

But the 20-year-old’s stay with Quakers could end in January at Boro’s behest, and Armstrong hopes history does not repeat itself.

In the first half of last season Middlesbrough sent striker Luke Armstrong on loan to Gateshead in the National League where he was a regular in the starting XI and scored ten times.

His goal-getting caught the attention of Accrington Stanley in League One, two divisions higher than Gateshead, but in the second half of the campaign the youngster spent just as much time on the bench as he did in the starting XI and scored only three goals.

Ultimately, he landed a permanent move to Salford City in the summer, though his dad believes that Luke’s contrasting loan spells demonstrate that a temporary spell at a higher level may not necessarily benefit O’Neill just yet.

He said: “My son Luke was flying at Gateshead on loan from Boro, scored loads of goals in the first half of the season, then got called back and sent to Accrington and played only bit-parts so he didn’t get the goals.

“Yes, he got a great move afterwards, but he absolutely hated that second half of the season because he wasn’t playing. Lads need to develop, but they need to be playing.

“Tyrone’s here until January minimum. He’s thoroughly enjoying it and I think he’ll have a little bit of say in what happens next, and we can’t stand in the way of the lad’s development just to suit us.

“I hope the lads goes on and has a great career, but I will try my utmost to keep him here for now.”

Tall and slim but with close control and an ability to outwit defenders with quick footwork, O’Neill’s influence has grown as the season has progressed and he is now a key player in Armstrong’s team.

“Tyrone will be here as long as I can keep him,” added the manager. “The problem we’re going to have is that he is a quality footballer and he has to progress eventually. Will he be a top footballer? I think he will be because of what he’s got.

“He’s unconventional, he’s different to what other teams have, but it’d be no good going to a Football League club and sitting on the bench.

“But if a league clubs in and says he’s going to play every week then we can’t stand in his way.

“He might not be as successful there because our style of plays suits him, it’s got to work both ways.”

O’Neill scored twice in Saturday’s 3-0 win at Tamworth, a victory that paved the way for a trip to Walsall in the first round of the FA Cup, scheduled to be played the weekend of November 9.

There has been no clarification yet regarding the exact date of the game – some ties will be played on the Sunday for television purposes.

Quakers return to league action on Saturday away to Guiseley, while their next match at Blackwell Meadows is versus Kidderminster Harriers on Wednesday, October 30.

Meanwhile, a handful of players on the fringe of Darlington’s first-choice XI will be in the side that plays at Whickham on Wednesday night in the Durham Challenge Cup (7.30pm).

Chris Elliott, Cameron Holliday and Osagi Bascome will feature in the first round tie at The Glebe Sports Ground. Admission is £6 for adults, £4 for concessions.