Darlington have moved a step closer to completing their summer makeover after defender Graeme Lee joined the club.

The experienced former Hartlepool United centre-back has signed a one-year deal at The Northern Echo Arena – six months after Quakers first tried to sign him.

Manager Mark Cooper made an attempt to bring him in from Notts County in January.

But the Middlesbrough-born defender finally joined yesterday and becomes Cooper’s third summer signing following striker James Walshaw and midfielder Kris Taylor.

With next season not starting for another month, Cooper is now able to focus his attention on bringing in a forward as well as a goalkeeper after signing Lee.

Lee had plenty of options to choose from and has not previously played outside the Football League, so his arrival represents a coup for Cooper.

A key factor in the move was that Lee, 33, was keen on moving back to the North-East where he began his career with Pools and made his debut in 1995.

He won promotion there during the 2002-03 season alongside current Quakers right-back Paul Arnison.

The pair will meet up again when Darlington return for pre-season training next Thursday.

Cooper said: “He was our number one choice so we’re absolutely delighted to finally get him. Graeme was being chased by a number of clubs and had several offers, some of them better than we were offering, but he liked the model we put to him.

“Moving back to Middlesbrough was a big factor for him and his family, but the chairman and I met him up here on Sunday and he liked what the chairman had to say about where he wants to take things, and what I had to say on the football side of things.

“He’s excited at the prospect of joining up with us and we’ve signed someone with vast experience.

“I think he’s won five promotions, so he knows what it takes for us to get back into the Football League.

“He’ll also lead by example in his defending and in organising the team, which is something that was sometimes lacking last season.

“But he’ll also bring the best out of our current defenders, so along with Ian Miller, Adam Quinn, Greg Taylor, Paul Arnison and Aaron Brown we now have what I think is a strong squad of defenders.”