MANAGER Mark Cooper has reluctantly confessed it is unlikely Quakers starlet Dan Burn will be at the club next season.

Darlington's highly-rated central defender was, in Cooper's words, "a million miles the best player on the pitch" during the 1-0 defeat at The Northern Echo Arena on Saturday.

Burn's performances have been nothing short of astonishing since he made his debut when you take his age into consideration.

The 18-year-old has made 11 starts, since an injury time cameo in Quakers' 3-1 victory over Barrow in January. But supporters may want to make the most of their promising talent as it looks as if this will be his one and only campaign at the club.

"I don't know anything but I don't think he will be at the club this time next year," admitted the Quakers boss.

"If I was a Premier League manager I'd sign him straight away. He's 6ft 6in, he's a left footed centre back and they don't grow on trees.

"He's played too many games for him to be a flash in the pan. He had a dodgy 45 minutes on Saturday (at Gateshead). The thing that pleased me today was that I asked him for a reaction and I got one. He headed it; he was composed, he brought the ball out of defence and he tackled.

"When he does eventually leave Darlington and goes on to bigger and better things I hope he'll be looked after so he can fulfill his potential.

"He is still growing and filling his body out and he led the team today. He was the one who was always talking the most, which was a sad indictment of our back four.

"When someone's that big, they stand out. He looks awkward and freakishly big, but when you see him on the ball he has that habit of dropping balls into the forwards with the right pace on it. He can step into midfield and he can glide into it.

"I spoke to (youth team manager) Craig Liddle about him and he liked him and was always pushing him. And when the chance arose to put him in the team, we put him in. He's been brilliant. We've got some really good kids coming through."

Manchester United, Everton and Carlisle were represented in the stands on Saturday. And it would be highly surprising if Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough were not aware of the Ashington born centre back.

But Cooper has moved quickly to protect the club's prize asset and tied him down to an improved two and a half year deal so no-one can steal him for a song.

"He signed a new contract when he got in the team," admitted Cooper. "He was handcuffed into my office and I told him he wasn't leaving until he signed that bit of paper. It gives the club a little bit of security. It is not up to me (what he is worth or how much we get). But I would love him to go on and be a success.

"And it looks good on my CV that we've sold a young centre half because we have had the guts to play him. It gives the rest of the youth set up encouragement that if they're good enough they'll get a go in the team.

"He was never even mentioned at Newcastle or Sunderland. It is strange but there is always one that slips through and we've got a few."