DARLINGTON have stepped up their preparations for the new National League North season with the double capture of former Bolton Wanderers defender Nicky Hunt and ex-Newcastle United trainee Luke Charman.

Hunt is a vastly-experienced figure, having made more than 450 senior appearances in a career that saw him star in the Premier League with Bolton.

A member of the Bolton side that lost to Middlesbrough in the 2004 Carling Cup final, the 36-year-old was part of the Crewe Alexandra side that won promotion from League Two last season prior to his release from Gresty Road.

“Nicky's vast experience in the game is going to be invaluable for us,” said Quakers boss Alun Armstrong. “He has played at a much higher level since 2001, and only last season was a regular in the Crewe Alexandra team that won promotion from League Two.

“He can play at full-back or in the centre of defence. He is a very good organiser on the pitch, and will bring out the best in the players around him.”

Hunt played with two of his new team-mates during a spell at Accrington Stanley – Will Hatfield and Michael Liddle – and is looking forward to getting going at Blackwell Meadows.

“Alun was one of the first managers I spoke to after I was released at the end of the season, and he made feel wanted,” he said. “I'm really looking forward to getting back into football having not played since March, and it will be great to catch up with Will and Michael, and the rest of the lads. Hopefully I can help get Darlington promoted.”

Charman, a 22-year-old striker, joins after he was released from Newcastle’s development squad last month. He made three appearances for the Magpies’ Under-21 team in this season’s Football League Trophy.

“Luke has shown plenty of promise at Newcastle, but his chances of progressing there were very limited,” said Armstrong. “He will give us extra options up front, and I believe that we will realise his potential, making him an excellent striker in this league.

“He was someone I tried to get on loan twice last season but Newcastle wouldn’t let him out. He did have other clubs higher up talking to him but I managed to convince him to join us - he is good friends with Jamie Holmes which I’m sure helped with his decision.”