DARLINGTON have signed former League One star Marcus Maddison ahead of the new National League North season.

Maddison, who was once the subject of transfer interest from both Middlesbrough and Sunderland while he was starring with Peterborough United, has agreed to join Quakers after stepping out of the professional game.

The Durham-born attacking midfielder started his career with Newcastle United, and scored 14 goals in 38 matches for Gateshead following his release from the Magpies.

His feats with the Heed earned him a six-figure move to Peterborough in August 2014, and over the course of the next six seasons, he established himself as one of the leading lights in both the Championship and League One.

He scored 62 goals in 249 appearances for Posh, and was named in the EFL League One Team of the Season in 2017-18 thanks to the strength of his performances at London Road.

After leaving Peterborough, he played for Hull City, Charlton Athletic and Bolton Wanderers, before stepping down into non-league and playing part-time for Spalding last season.

“There’s been discussions with a few players recently, and this one came up,” said Darlington boss Alun Armstrong. “After speaking to the lad about what he was wanting to achieve, and the way that he is in himself, wanting to come back home, I just thought it was a no-brainer.

“He’s got unbelievable quality, everyone can see that. If we can get him anywhere near the level he’s capable of, then we’ve got an unbelievable player on our hands.”

Once touted as a potential Premier League player, Maddison’s career has not quite gone to plan in the last few years, but Armstrong is confident the 28-year-old is ready to make a major impression in National League North.

“He’s a fantastic player for this level,” said the Quakers boss. “We know obviously that last season he decided to pack in the pro game and went back into part-time for a little spell.

“He got himself a little injury that he picked up, but I’ve had a good couple of chats with him, and I think he’s got that hunger back again. You do get to a spell where you think, ‘I’ve had enough of this’, but I’ve had a good chat with him and he’s wanting to get back into it and enjoy his football.”

Maddison readily admits he struggled mentally after things did not work out as planned at either Charlton or Bolton, hence his decision to take a step back from the professional game.

He feels he is in a much different place now, and is hoping the move to Darlington will help set him up for the latter stages of his career, which could still see him play for the best part of another decade if his form and fitness hold up.

“It’s been two years since I was at Bolton in League Two, and I was Charlton in League One six months before that,” said Maddison. “It was the Championship the year before that. It’s strange, but this is definitely the club I wanted to come to.

“Things didn’t go well at Bolton, and in terms of my head space, I just wasn’t in the right place to play football anymore. I think taking this year out has made a huge difference to me mentally. I know what I want now, and where I want to be. I want to be up north, and I want to enjoy myself. I’ve got six or seven good years left in football, and I’m going to use them.”