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Staunton fighting the desperation as Darlington reach new low
Published : 19 Dec 2009 09:52:08
Point of no return: Steve Staunton has used his contacts to bring in a host of loan players but Darlington are still rooted to the bottom of the table Meanwhile in Darlington, the Man With The Hardest Job In English Football, Steve Staunton, is in a state of denial. Who can blame him? These are the facts. Darlington are 92nd in the four divisions and are cut adrift, 12 points off safety. After 21 games they have won two and have a goal difference of minus 35. They have lost the last five, conceding 19 goals. Last Saturday they were beaten 5-0 by Torquay, one of their rivals at the bottom. And for the first time in 21 years, no supporters' bus left Darlington for an away game. Staunton was appointed 10 weeks ago but after Torquay said: 'I don't know what I can do.' It was as if he was bemused and beaten. But, five days on, Staunton walked into Darlington's always-deserted stadium, denied circumstances were the worst in the country and smiled. That Tuesday's training session had been conducted on a running track because of water-logging, that Wednesday's went ahead only because of a favour from Sunderland, while a question over Friday's training venue was met with the response: 'Ask me, Friday' had not diluted the 40 year-old Irishman's commitment. In an illuminating insight into the parallel universe clubs such as Darlington inhabit, Staunton said: 'We can't go to Sunderland four or five days a week. But if you go to Accrington Stanley or any of these boys, I know for a fact they'd be driving around looking for a bit of grassland. 'There's plenty of clubs out there in a similar if not worse position. We've got contacts.' Staunton, who was doing some youth coaching at Aston Villa after his experience as Republic of Ireland boss, has used those already. Villa have supplied youngsters on loan, as have another old club Leeds United. Grounds for concern: Darlington's 25,000-seater stadium could soon be hosting non-league football But he knows they can only be a short-term solution and, looking to the future, Staunton craves the stability he once knew as a Liverpool player. The eyebrow-raising thing was that Staunton was discussing the future. H e is contracted to the end of this season but he would be wealthy enough to walk out claiming his position untenable and save some face. That is one expectation locally. Staunton refuted it. 'I certainly won't be walking away from here without making sure the club is going in the right direction, that's for sure. 'I fully understood what I was taking on. The one thing we said is that if we stay up, it'll be like winning the Conference. That's the aim. 'Unfortunately the standards were set before I came and too many good players were allowed out the door. 'Behind the scenes the chairman has got it right from a financial point of view but it's still costing him. The only way you can do things properly is by getting that sorted and no matter what happens next summer, whether we stay up or go down, we need to have something in place where we're going forward next year, not starting over again.' All change: Ian Miller is one of 41 players to play for Darlo this season What's happened at Darlington in 2009 is administration. After Dave Penney and Colin Todd, Staunton became the third manager this year to deal with its consequences. One of those was that the best and most experienced players left, their contracts annulled. New players had to be found and used, so far it's 41. Three more triallists arrived this week. The club captain, Steve Foster remained. However, his top-earner contract stipulated that 20 starts this season would guarantee him another 12 months on the same money - said to be around £1,100 a week. So Foster has made 18 starts. The 19th could come at home to Northampton, who have not won in eight games. 'What a crackerjack!' Staunton exclaimed. It is must-win, but then they all are for Darlington. So was Torquay. That was a round-trip of 700 miles and the journey home took eight hours. Thinking of it, Staunton talked first in general terms about player behaviour. 'It's just slowly deteriorated, but that's throughout football. Speaking to Tony Pulis last night, and Harry Redknapp says the same, they can't go home on the team coach because they know players start laughing and joking. It just riles you. 'It took a while (from Torquay) but you still heard it. I suppose in eight hours you're going to. I was asked about putting the X Factor on.' And? 'And? They saw a video of the game and they were allowed Match of the Day. That's it.'