Colin Todd - football's fire fighter

Colin Todd had a busy summer completely rebuilding the squad at Darlington


Answer - he was the sole Quaker to start both the final game of last season and the first one of the new campaign.

Miller and skipper Steve Foster were the only senior players that remained at Darlington over the summer following a torrid few months that started when the cash-strapped Quakers entered administration in February.

George Houghton, the chairman when the club went into administration, pumped money into the club to ensure Darlington could complete their fixtures last season but, nonetheless, players did not receive their full pay, manager Dave Penney left for Oldham and a lot of the their non-football staff were made redundant.

Newcastle might have monopolised the crisis-club headlines but Darlington, 36 miles down the A1, have given their North East rivals an unwanted run for their money.

Colin Todd was brought in as manager in late May and was quickly made aware of the extent of the problems.

"It was very grave and serious in terms of what might happen to the club - people were expecting the worse," Todd told me.

"When I walked in what hit me was the state of the pitch. There was no groundsman and it had not been touched since the end of the previous season. It was in very poor condition."

The turf at the 25,500 seater Darlington Arena might have served as an apt metaphor for the condition of the club in general.

Last summer the Quakers had assembled a large and expensive squad by League Two standards as they went all out for promotion.

The dream proved to be unsustainable and the mandatory 10-point deduction that followed administration ended any hopes of going up.

I spoke to various people at different League Two clubs at the time and sympathy seemed to be thin on the ground, the prevailing view being that Houghton's Darlington had lived beyond their means (with a rumoured monthly wage bill of £270,000 for the playing staff) in an attempt to give them an advantage and should now suffer the consequences.

Todd found himself having to pick up the pieces. It was a huge task.

When he arrived the club was still in administration and its the remaining players were free to sign for other clubs.

"I had a meeting with the eight or nine senior players that were left, but that figure dwindled down to just two - Miller and Foster," said Todd, who told me he was not paid in full for the first few months because of the financial predicament at the club.

Todd, who lives in nearby Chester-le-Street, quickly persuaded Houghton to re-employ the groundsman (whose salary was initially funded by the chairman because the club was not in a position to employ anyone).

Much more difficult was the task of constructing a new squad. Todd could not offer a new player a contract until the club came out of atil the club came out of administration (this eventually happened the week before the season started) and was restricted by a wage bill that was roughly a third the size of last season's.

He had to renegotiate the contracts of both Miller and Foster, recalling that: "I had to be very positive with them."

Thankfully for Darlington, Todd, who had been in charge at Danish side Randers until the start of 2009, is no stranger to managing in adversity.

During the 60-year-old's largely successful spell as assistant manager to Bruce Rioch at Middlesbrough in the late 80s, the doors to Ayresome Park had been locked by the official receiver and the club was close to bankruptcy.

At Bradford, Todd stepped up from assistant to the role of manager after the departure of Bryan Robson in June 2004 - a period when the Yorkshire club was adjusting to the chastening reality of life after the Premier League.

He had a tough rebuilding job at Valley Parade. As with the current situation at Darlington, the club were in administration and had a threadbare squad.

But Todd, who has also managed Bolton, Swindon and Derby, is in no doubt his current role is his most arduous.



ColinTodd took over at troubled Bradford after Bryan Robson left the club

"It has been very, very difficult to put the jigsaw together," he said.

Todd seems to have the gritty, phlegmatic personality necessary to stay afloat in choppy waters and possesses a nice line in understatement. When I asked him what it is like trying to build virtually an entirely new squad during a summer, he replied: "It keeps your mind active."

He is adamant the key to wading through all the problems and restrictions at a club in administration is remaining a positive outlook and sticking strictly to your budget.

Todd had to reassure backroom staff, such as the physio and kit man, all of whom had been made redundant, that they had a future at the club.

And after persuading Miller and Foster to stay, the manager had to set about persuading players to disregard the uncertainty swirling around Darlington and sign for him.

Todd used his network of contacts and own knowledge of the lower leagues to quickly identify available players that the club might be able to afford.

Dean Windass turned down an offer from Port Vale to accept a player/coach role at the club while a spate of experienced professionals such as Lee Thorpe, Chris Lumsdon, Jeff Smith, Paul Arnison and Mark Bower agreed to join.

Most were running down contracts at their previous club and were guaranteed wages until their deals expired. It meant they would not go unpaid over the summer before signing formal contracts with their new club once it had come out of administration.

Todd also drafted several young players - Nick Liversedge, Curtis Main, Josh Gray, Dan Riley and Danny Groves - into his senior squad.

With Jamie Chandler and David Dowson signing from Sunderland on loan - the manager has fulfilled his first mission of building a squad.

The day before the new season started, Darlington finally left administration, with new owner Raj Singh completing his takeover at the club.

But footballing fairytales are in short supply and it is obvious Todd still has an awful lot of work to do.

Darlington lost 3-1 at Aldershot on the opening day of the season and followed that with a narrow Carling Cup defeat to Leeds.

The Quakers then lost to Bury, Crewe and Port Vale in League Two.

They are currently bottom of the table - propping up the entire Football League - though the situation might not be quite so bad but for two crucial penalty misses, against Bury and Port Vale.

Nearby Newcastle might be managerless and up for sale, but out of their travails they have at least retained a quality squad.

Darlington now also have a team to put on the field - and although they might be struggling, at the end of last season it was far from certain they would have enough players to at least try to compete.

"A lot of people thought it would not happen - but you have to make things happen," said the Quakers manager.

And having got over the first hurdle, Todd now has to make sure his team start picking up some points.
Colin Todd - football's fire fighter Colin Todd - football's fire fighter Reviewed by Sopheap Chhin on 10:59:00 AM Rating: 5

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