DARLINGTON have added defender Joey Hope to their ranks ahead of the start of the new National League North season.

An 18-year-old left-back, who could also play further up the left-hand side, Hope is a native North-Easterner who grew up playing youth football on Teesside.

He signed youth terms with Grimsby Town, and signed his first professional contract with the Mariners in 2020 after spending a year in the club’s academy.

He made his senior debut for Grimsby in last season’s EFL Trophy win over Harrogate Town, and spent part of the campaign playing with Northern Premier League side Cleethorpes on loan.

He left Grimsby by mutual consent in March, and has been snapped up by Darlington after he was recommended to Quakers boss Alun Armstrong.

“I don’t know much about him,” admitted Armstrong. “But he’s been highly recommended by David Hogson, who knows plenty about players, and so he’s worth looking at.

“Having a local lad in the squad will also benefit the area and boost interest in the team. It’s an opportunity for Joey to play men’s football.

“He’s predominantly a left-back, but he likes to get forward and put crosses in. It’s a great opportunity for us to develop him and help him advance his career.”

Darlington have had a busy few days, with Hope’s arrival having been preceded by the signings of Junior Mondal, Tommy Taylor and Lexus Beeden.

Armstrong is also trying to persuade Erico Sousa to sign a new deal at Blackwell Meadows, with the Portuguese forward having made a major impact after joining from Tadcaster Albion midway through last season.

Darlington have offered Sousa a new deal, although the 26-year-old is also attracting strong interest from a number of other clubs.

“He’s over in Portugal at the minute seeing his family,” said Armstrong. “But I’m in constant contact with him. He is getting offers, we know that, I’ve just got to try to convince the lad that here is his best platform to perform to get to an even higher level.

“We’re constantly negotiating. I think the lad would like to stay, don’t get me wrong, he’s said he would love to stay at Darlington. But he wants to be a full-time footballer and he wants to play at the levels above. Believe me, I’m still fighting and working hard on it. Hopefully, we’ll see him back here next year.”