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Darlington Football Club

Ray Simpson / 11th January 2022

Ten years on: Memories of Barrow

Ten years on: Memories of Barrow

Fans' memories of the away game at Barrow

Many people thought that Darlington Fc had played its last game at Barrow in January 2012 -- here are some fans memories, courtesy of In the Dying Seconds, of that day.



Richard Heslop - “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” In the nervous build up to the Barrow game, Darlo fan Richard Heslop posted a heartfelt rallying cry to Darlo fans and it was so impassioned, that it was picked up by many sections of the media, and went viral.


The idea behind the article was simply to try and set down what I was thinking and feeling about what seemed, at the time, to be our final match. It was a difficult and emotional time and it really did seem that the end had come. I wanted to try and capture that and show that despite all the bad times we had been through, we as fans were still standing behind the team. I wanted to show that we hadn’t given up and that there was still a slim chance that the club could be rescued. I also wanted to try and turn a negative into a positive and show there was still something to support.

I wanted to get down how proud I was to be a Darlo fan and how much it meant to me. I wanted to show that although things were bad we had seen some good times and that they could still come again. I wanted to try and persuade a couple of people to go to the match and get behind the team. I had already decided that I had to make the trip up to Barrow after holding out for a long time thinking there wasn’t much point going as it looked all over. I thought there might be others in a similar situation and that we should try and get a large a crowd as possible to give the team a send off.

It took me quite a while to write simply because there was no plan and I didn’t expect everything to come pouring out! To begin with there was just a jumble of thoughts and ideas and the real time was spent in trying to turn it into something legible and sensible that could be easily read. It took me several hours one evening to order things and make them sensible. As for the background I had read Henry V some time before I wrote the article and the quote seemed appropriate as in the play Henry V uses it before the culmination of the siege at Harfleur to inspire his men to one more effort. It seemed appropriate as we may have only had one more game to play!

I had no idea it would be as popular as it became and I didn’t really write it for that response, if I am being honest I didn’t think anyone would be interested! It was mainly just an effort to get down on paper what I was feeling about what looked very much like been the end of the club we all supported and had invested so much in over the years. The response was a fantastic by-product which might have helped a little bit towards saving our club.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

Let’s make Barrow on Saturday a celebration of the life of Darlington Football Club, not a wake or a funeral or an attack of those who have dropped us into this position.
Go to Barrow and show people around the world how proud we are of our team and our lads. Let’s show people that we still care, that we are still proud of the club and our town. Let’s show people that Darlington Football Club stands as an ambassador for our town and our area and we will not just give it up and slope off home. We will fight on.
Let’s show the players that that shirt still means something, that that shirt still needs to be worn with pride and that it is worth putting on that shirt and running out on that pitch and representing all of us one last time. One last go lads, everything you have got, one last time, 90 minutes of life as a Darlo player left. s*** or bust, hero or zero. Go out with a bang and not a whimper.
Use this game to thank them and the legend that is Craig Liddle for everything they have done recently, against so much strife, unpleasantness and uncertainty and tell them that we are so proud that they are carrying on, let’s get behind whoever takes a place on that pitch, regardless of opinion, past reputation or performance on the day. Because this might be the last time!
Let’s show people what it means to be a fan of Darlo, celebrate those 128 years of existence. Celebrate everything that has gone before, the good, the bad and the ugly, show people that although we have been here through thin and thinner, that we have suffered blow after blow, we are still not beaten, we are still not broken, we are still here and we still stand proudly behind Darlington Football Club.
Show them that although we have been knocked down and might be on the canvas right now, we will get back on our feet and come out punching. It will be us who land the knock out blow. Use this day to shame all of those plastics and couldn’t give a damns in the town into thinking about what they could have been a part of, make them see what we have been about, what we are about and what we will be about again.
Let’s celebrate the good times, the 85 promotion, Boro, the Conference win in 89/90, Welling away, 90/91 champions, Rochdale at home, Knowles, Little, Hodgy, Platt, Hodgy (again), Wembley in 96 and 2000 and that sweet moment in May when a little fella headed home from half a yard to win us the cup.
Make everyone who has knocked us or laughed at us over the years understand that today we embrace all of the crap players, the terrible teams, the rubbish managers and crazy chairmen who have afflicted us. Why? Because all of that makes the few good times even better. Because all of those things are what Darlington Football Club is about. Let’s show them what it means to call yourself a Darlo fan one last time.
Let’s also think of all those people in the Tin Shed in the sky who aren’t able to stand with us on Saturday, think about what the club meant to them and how they passed on that love for the club to you, think about how one day you want to pass that love on to the next generation so that they know what being a Darlo fan is all about. I am sure they will be stood leaning on that crash barrier under the Sunday Sun board with their scarves and flasks of Bovril thinking "typical bloody Darlo" - but they would still make the journey if they could! In fact I am sure they will be there with us. Sing that bit louder for them.
If anyone is unsure about going and is able to go they should make the trip, it could be your only chance to say goodbye to the team you love. It could be your last chance to wear the black and white and get behind the lads. Do whatever it takes to get to Barrow, wear your shirts with pride and wave your scarves one last time. Tell anyone you meet where you are going and why. Tell them you are proud to support the lads!
And should this turn out to be the last time then let’s celebrate all of that, let’s support the lads and the manager, let’s keep singing up to the final whistle and beyond because this club means something to each and every one of us, it has been part of our lives for so long, it is what makes us who were are, it is what makes us better than everyone else and it might not be there for much longer. Let’s make this day one of the greatest moments for this football club.
If it is to be the end let’s go out on a high, all guns blazing giving it everything we have got and not for one minute forgetting that we are Darlington Football Club and we will bounce back!


Stuart Armstrong – “Anybody in?”

I have vivid memories of the early January 2012 period leading up to the Barrow away match. I remember listening to BBC Tees with administrator Harvey Madden being pretty blunt about the prognosis for Darlington FC. I’d pulled over at the end of our street to listen to the interview and remember being struck by a deep reality that we were really, really struggling to survive and that in all likelihood we would be playing our final ever game the following Saturday at Barrow.

I was pretty consumed by the whole affair in a way that I’d not have predicted. Sure, I had 30 odd years of support in the bag but had never really considered myself to be truly fanatical – until faced with a reality that this was the end. I remember how helpless I felt and how angry I was with the manner in which our club had been led down this path.

On the first Wednesday in January I had an evening flight to catch to get to a meeting the following morning in London. Midweek evenings in airports are fairly depressing places at the best of times but I was in a woeful mood this particular night. I was early, so had booted up the laptop whilst waiting for the flight to get the latest episode of despair from Darlo Uncovered.

There was a post on there describing that the Northern Echo had provided a coach to get to the final game at Barrow as otherwise the players were going to have to drive themselves. I was obviously pleased with the gesture from the Echo, but it also brought home the desperation of the situation for the players. Imagine the indignity of not having been paid for months and having to fill up your own car to drive across the Pennines like a player in a Sunday morning pub team?

I mused on it for a minute or two and thought through how the day would have looked, with a rag bag of players rocking up in their shared cars, stopping off at MacDonald’s on the way or unwrapping some sandwiches before the game. I wondered whether anyone else would support an idea to at least pay for a half decent lunch before pulling on the shirt for a final time.

Quick fag packet maths suggested that even ten quid a head would get somewhere near, and the squad was so small by this stage that I thought that £150 would be an arbitrary target to aim for. Quite frankly I realised it would be hugely embarrassing to start something off and not make the target and also have a pretty demoralising effect on any players who might have read of an appeal that couldn’t even raise that much, so I thought I’d aim for £150 and make up whatever difference there was if we fell short. It seemed the least I could do.

So, at 8:27pm on January 4th I posted the following on Uncovered:

Great gesture, we should think about stumping up on here for the players to have a pre match lunch somewhere, otherwise I think they'll able bringing their own packed lunches. If this is indeed it, surely it's the least we can do?
I'll throw the first £10 in. Who's with me? I'm sure someone can work out a way of collecting and so on.....should think a couple of hundred quid would cover it.
Anybody in?

It’s fair to say I had pretty small expectations of any response. I was fully expecting that a few would chip in but at this stage in proceedings everything was looking so bleak I really wasn’t sure we’d get much over £100 and I’d already thought through how I was going to explain to my wife that not only did I fancy having a day out in Barrow-in-Furness on Saturday but I’d possibly be paying for the team’s meals as well. It wasn’t a conversation that I thought would go well.

Within ten minutes or so there had been an encouraging response. A few fellow posters had commented that it seemed a good idea and one or two had offered to chip in. So far, so good. Someone asked how I planned to collect the money. Good question. Hadn’t really thought of that but bearing in mind the fairly limited ambition I had for this collection I figured it would be manageable somehow. By the time my flight had been called we had a good number of positive responses and I was feeling reasonably optimistic that we’d be able to make enough together to get a meal of some sort arranged.

Two other major things happened during the course of my flight to London. Firstly, Scott Thornberry had noticed the thread and took the initiative on the mechanics of how to organise it, and secondly, MKDarlo published his fantastic ‘Once more into the breach’ post which captured brilliantly the emotion we were feeling at the time.

After months of feeling helpless and unable to make any impact, the chance to contribute seemed to strike a chord and social media was helping to shine a light on what our club meant to us and how we were trying to help.

The next 24 hours were verging on the ridiculous. Within a couple of hours of the first tentative suggestion, Michael Price had set up an online totaliser to count up the contributions made so far and by the time I’d got to my hotel we were racing towards the first £1,000. By the following lunchtime we were above £2,000 and growing.

By match day, I think we had raised over £8,000 which Scott graciously transferred to Craig Liddle and the players on the morning of the Barrow game. Much of it came from Darlington fans, much also from fans of other clubs who had heard of our plight and sent across something to help. I believe that the fund in the end raised upwards of £20,000.

The media loved it. Not just the local media but the national broadcasters too. A little northern football club going bust didn’t generate any interest, but an online appeal to buy the players some sandwiches before their last ever match seemed to be just what editors wanted for their little end of show, heart-warming community piece before the weekend. I remember getting a message from a colleague of mine on the Isle of Wight saying how much he’d enjoyed hearing about our story on BBC Five Live as I drove home on Friday evening.

From a Darlington fan’s point of view? Suddenly we were no longer the ungrateful bad guys failing to support a chairman, but the community spirited good guys working together to help look after their own players. It turned into a brilliant story.

What happened next has been well documented but those early days in January 2012 were when supporting Darlington changed and all of those who have stepped forward have my absolute respect and gratitude.