Martin Gray was last night confirmed as Darlington's new manager as the club prepare for the Northern League.

He has agreed a two-year contract and has brought with him a four-strong backroom staff including two fellow former Darlington players.

Brian Atkinson will be assistant manager having left Spennymoor Town, where he was number two to Jason Ainsley, and Sean Gregan has been named as defensive coach.

Also new to Quakers is former Sunderland keeper Tony Norman who will be goalkeeping coach and Harry Dunn will be chief scout.

Darlington, who play at Shildon's Dean Street, will be part-time next season and train once or twice a week on midweek evenings with Gray hoping to secure a location on an artificial surface in the town.

But the number of coaching staff that Gray has been permitted to recruit is a clear statement of ambition from the club.

A statement by the board of 1883, the fans-led company that now run the club, read: "With the support of fans, the club hope to provide Martin with a competitive budget and have set him the target of constructing a team capable of winning promotion from the Northern League at the first attempt.

"Passion for Darlington and its football club and intimate knowledge of lower league football were key to the selection criteria as was a strong network of contacts and players in the region and coaching/management experience."

Gray said: "It was important to get the right people in from the start rather than doing it as we go along.

"It is no secret that Darlington is a football club that is close to my heart and this is a role that I just can't wait to get stuck into to, especially as the club is now fan owned.

"I am delighted to given the opportunity to play a key role in getting Darlington back where it belongs after what has been a very difficult period for the fans and the club.

"If the fans continue to back the club financially I am confident we can put together an attractive and competitive team."

Gray began his playing career with Ferryhill before being signed by Sunderland and later moving to Oxford.

He signed for Darlington in 1999 and retired through injury two years later, soon becoming youth team coach and he has twice been assistant manager, to David Hodgson and Dave Penny.

He followed Penney to Oldham Athletic in 2009, but when Mark Cooper was sacked by Raj Singh last October, Gray had to rule himself out of the running for the hot seat due to his commitments to his coaching academy.

He added: "At this stage of my career this is a challenge that really appealed to me and I am excited to be heading a professional management team which I fully expect to do this club proud.

"My career started in the Northern League and it is a scene I know very well.

"There are a lot of good teams in the Northern League and we will have to treat it with the respect that it deserves, but we will be aiming to put together a team which can challenge at the very top and the aim is promotion at the first attempt."

Interim board chairman Denis Pinnegar said: "We are delighted that Martin and the team have agreed to join us and we are sure we now have a great team capable of serving the name of Darlington Football Club well.

"We are all very much looking forward to working with him over the course of the next few weeks as we build our team together.

"Martin is bringing with him a very strong coaching team, many already known to Darlington fans, all of who share the love of DFC which will spur us on to greater heights and, using Martin's already successful work with youth in his academy, we will also have the added benefit of immediate engagement with tomorrow's good players."

Quakers also interviewed Graeme Lee and Andy Toman about the vacancy which was filled on an interim basis by Craig Liddle following Cooper's exit.

On Friday the Football Association ruled that Darlington will be in the first division of the Northern League next season, but the club are to appeal the decision and hope to be placed in the Evo-Stik Premier or first division.

1883 project manager Craig McKenna added: "The uncertainty around which league the club would be in for next season had delayed the appointment of a manager.

"Once the FA announcement was made it was important to get the right man in place quickly in order that he could be given as much time as possible to bring together and prepare a squad ready for the 2012-13 season.

"The appointment process has been under way for some weeks and we were very fortunate to have an excellent short list to pick from, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all the applicants for the position."