HAVING a football team in the English Football League is a boon to a town. It gives it identity and character, and a place on the map. It gives it an economic boost of hundreds of opposing fans using local pubs, and there is always the tantalising dream of a plum cup tie which can galvanise a town.

It is so disappointing for Gateshead that its club has been denied a place in the play-offs because it doesn’t have a 10 year tenure on its stadium. Not only is it a slap in the face for this season’s efforts but it also raises questions about next season: will the best talent go to a club that is unable to progress?

Therefore Darlington fans must also be disappointed that the plans for the Quakers to get their own stadium appear to have fallen through, for the time being at least.

If the Quakers do have aspirations to get back into the English Football League, or even if they have ambitions to make progress up the football pyramid, they are going to have to move out of rented accommodation. Not only do they need their own ground to avoid falling into the same trap as Gateshead, but they need it to maximise on their revenue.

There will be some fans who regard a stadium as pie-in-the-sky, and after the disappointments and letdowns that the Quakers have endured these last 20 years, a pessimistic realism is understandable.

But if the club doesn’t have these plans and ambitions, it will stay as it is: a tenant ticking over in the sixth tier. Football is all about dreaming the impossible dream, so it is to be hoped that new plans can be drawn up with the aim of one day getting a stadium and putting Darlington back on the map.