A new season brings with it a new-look squad and new kit for Darlington – no hoops this year – and manager Alun Armstrong believes the club’s fans have plenty to look forward to.

The supporters who travelled to Whitby seven days ago for a 2-1 friendly defeat were less than impressed with what they saw, and Armstrong had a similar point of view.

He had strong words with his players on the pitch afterwards, and has since signed three players including a much-needed centre-back.

Former Sunderland youngster Brandon Taylor joined and is likely to start today, and also new to the club are strikers Andrew Nelson, and ex-Quakers youth team player James Beauchamp.

They took the number of arrivals this summer to 13, adding to the six who remain from last season.

So against AFC Telford United, supporters will see a much-changed side from the XI which last played in front of fans at Blackwell Meadows in March 2020.

Armstrong said: “I’m really excited with what we’ve got now. There’s loads of pace and physicality in the team.

“We have a mix this year, whereas last year we relied on total football, it had to be perfect football all the time, especially with the front four that we had. They were all less than 6ft tall.

“We’ve got that physical presence up top now with Jake Cassidy. Kev Dos Santos hasn’t got the trickery that Erico Sousa had, but when you look at him, he’s a monster; he’s up and down the wing, he tracks back, but he needs to work on the end product as all wingers do.”

The last league game at Blackwell was 517 days ago, a 4-2 defeat to Farsley, and Armstrong added: “We just can’t wait to play in front of fans. It’s really exciting.

“I really hope we get a great turnout because we have missed them massively. I know some people who might be apprehensive because of the Covid situation, but the more fans that are there, then the more they’ll get behind these players. They’re a new squad, and the support that the fans will give, will be massive for us.

“All I ask of the fans is for them to get behind us. I know there’s been a lot of frustration over the past 18 months because they haven’t been able to watch us play and see what’s going on.

“I know how good these Darlington fans can be, so please get behind the players.”

However, striker Luke Charman is unavailable after testing positive for Covid. His team-mates tested negative.

Striker Beauchamp, most recently with Darlington Town in the Wearside League, will hope for a place on the bench.

Armstrong said: “As soon as I knew that Luke wasn’t available earlier in the week, we had to look for cover.

“I brought in Bushy because he’s been training with us for a few weeks. There have been loads of clubs after him. He’s really raw, but he scores goals. His fitness might not be up there – he thought our training sessions only lasted an hour at first – but it shows that we’re looking at all avenues to bring in the calibre of player that we want.”

Darlington saw a number of friendlies cancelled due to Covid, with players having to isolate at various times.

Armstrong added: “It has wrecked our pre-season and our plans a little bit, but we’ve brought people in to try and deal with that.

“I’ve got to deal with it, and unfortunately the fans will have to accept it. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

With 19-year-old summer signing Lexus Beeden unable to demonstrate he is ready to be relied on in the league, Armstrong will hope Taylor is able to take his chance.

“I’ve known about Brandon for a few years, he’s worked his way through the ranks and done extremely well,” said Armstrong. “He made his debut for Sunderland and he signed a new contract last year.

“But it didn’t pan out because of Phil Parkinson leaving and he wasn’t part of the new manager’s plans.

“He might not be the big ugly centre half that we’re looking for, but we’re still working on that. He talks, he covers and I think he’ll be a great signing.”