White back where he belongs

The Advertiser Series: LOCAL HERO: Alan White LOCAL HERO: Alan White

They say never go back, especially if you have had success first time around.

It's clearly an old adage in football to which Alan White has paid little attention, having joined Darlington for a third time to enjoy the challenge of attempting to earn what would be his first ever promotion.

It is certainly a better period than his third spell, under Steve Staunton, a time he describes as being "horrible", when the club were relegated from the Football League in 2009-10.

Back then Quakers were a poor team and lost almost every week, whereas this time around they're expected to win most games while they push for promotion, just as they were during 2007-09 in White's first spell with Darlington, when he'd joined from Notts County.

He returned after the beginning of this season from Harrogate Town, enticed back by manager Martin Gray, who was assistant in 2007 when White was in his prime at the heart of a strong defence put together by Dave Penney.

Although Quakers did not achieve promotion, White was one of the first names on the team sheet and regarded as one of the cornerstones of the defence.

Six years on and although now aged 37, White is again one of Gray's first picks and he will start today's game at league leaders Warrington, despite suffering a minor eye injury during Wednesday's League Cup defeat to Ossett Town.

White said: "I've always kept in touch with Martin and when the opportunity came up I thought 'yeah, definitely'. Especially at my age. I've never had a promotion, never won a thing. I've been in the play-offs a few times, but that's it, so this is a great opportunity.

"It's what I was hoping for at Harrogate. They had a good set-up and team there, but two lads came in when I was injured and I'm not happy sitting on the bench. So I've come here and I'm really enjoying it.

"It's good fun. I enjoyed my time at Harrogate when I was in the team, but if I'm not going to be playing then there's no point in hanging around.

"I've come back to Darlington and it's great. It's a good challenge and I think we're good enough to get promoted."

White had the chance to return to Darlington ahead of last season, when they won the Northern League title.

He has no regrets, though, about not being part of a promotion-winning season.

"It was good to see them promoted, but I didn't even think about it (playing for Darlington) because I was enjoying it at Harrogate," he said.

"I came to watch a few games and I knew a few of the lads who were here, plus I've got friends who are big Darlo fans who would talk about it on nights out. But it didn't even occur to me not being part of it as I was really happy at Harrogate."

After an initial loan, White joined Darlington permanently in September and has since formed a partnership with Chris Hunter, although they were both part of the team that put in a poor show during the midweek loss.

But White was man of the match in last Saturday's 2-1 win at Mossley, when Darlington had to withstand late pressure and an aerial bombardment.

He added: "Mossley got a goal back and suddenly it's panic stations and it's uncomfortable because 2-0 is a funny score.

"They didn't have much to threaten us. In the first half we were comfortable and should've scored more. But we knew that in the second half they were going to be more direct and launch it long to Wayne Welbeck and the big centre-midfielder, he's 6ft 3in, who they put up front.

"It's good to see that we've got that side to our game. As well as the likes of Stephen Thompson and the wingers, who are skilful and can score, we've got good character in the team.

"Terry Galbraith and Bruno Pilatos are defending really well, Chris is playing well and Jordan Robinson is doing a good job."

Having made eight changes in midweek, Gray is today likely to revert to the same XI that defeated Mossley.

Curtis Edwards, Dale Hopson and Nathan Fisher return to the bench, while Chris Moore has joined Whitley Bay on loan.

Fifth-placed Darlington know a repeat of their opening-day win over Warrington is crucial as today's hosts are already 11 points ahead of Quakers.

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