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Gray factor lures Keltie
Martin Gray being manager at Darlington was a key factor in Clark Keltie's decision to drop down to the Ebac Northern League.
Having spent the past decade no lower that the Conference the sixth tier - it might have been expected that the midfielder's next move would be somewhat higher up the football pyramid.
But, after returning from a spell in Iceland, where he played for Vikingur Olafsvik, Keltie has returned to the English game at the ninth level of the game by signing for Quakers.
It is the third time he has joined the club having first signed as a teenager in 2001 and again midway through last season when Darlington were in the Conference.
"There's lot of clubs that wanted him, but he wanted to come back and play for me, that was the key behind it so I was delighted with that," said Gray, whose team are at home to Bedlington Terriers today.
"He could play for a club higher up, but he feels as though he wants to give something back to the club and he wanted to play for me, that's the truth of the matter.
"He'd been offered more money elsewhere, but for him it was about wanting to come to Darlington and he'll do a good job for us."
Keltie returned on the same day as goalkeeper Craig Turns signed.
A former Spennymoor Town player, Turns may have to wait before making his Darlington debut with Jack Norton expected to get the nod today.
Their arrivals come despite Darlington having begun the season with 14 wins from 15 games, putting them top of the table and six points clear of Spennymoor.
Gray explained: "You're always looking to strengthen.
"The most important time to strengthen is when you're going well rather than waiting for the day when you're caught out.
"For me, as a manager, when things are going well it's easier to sign players than when you're struggling at the bottom of the league.
"But it's good to be in a position when you can add quality to a squad when you know it's already doing well."
Quakers are doing more than well having won their last ten successive games.
They face a stiff test today, though, which shall be, in theory at least, their hardest game of the season so far.
Bedlington are third and have won five of their six away games in all competitions and boast the division's top scorer in Paul Brayson who has 12 goals.
Gray said: "I'm not sure what the stats are, I just know it will be a tough game. They are third in the league and have a made a couple of signings this week, including a centre-half from West Auckland.
"On their day they are as good as anybody in the league so they're going to be a really good test and a good challenge for us.
"On paper it's the hardest game we'll have had so far, definitely a good challenge."
Ten days ago, however, on the evening Quakers beat South South Shields 2-1, Terriers lost 6-0 at home to Spennymoor.
Gray added: "Harry Dunn was at the game and he said that Spennymoor were very good on the night. They turned up and Bedlington didn't, that's how the game was apparently.
"But Bedlington are capable of doing that to someone else as well.
"They've got goals in the team and they've got a bit of experience so it'll be a test."
Among Bedlington's experienced players are former Quakers Stuart Elliott and Mark Convery.
Elliott, 35, has played for over 20 clubs in his career, including Darlington in 2001-01 when he scored a remarkable goal versus Nottingham Forest.
His strike from the centre circle after a poor clearance by keeper Dave Beasant secured a shock win in the first round of the League Cup.
Bedlington this week signed centre-back Chris Carr from West Auckland and winger Alan O'Brien, a former Newcastle graduate.
On O'Brien, Terriers chairman Ronan Liddane said: "This is an excellent signing for the club, and one we have been looking at for a while now and we are ecstatic to get Alan onto the playing staff.
"We have had a very good start to the season, but we are always looking to bring quality players into the squad, and this was an excellent opportunity for us, and one we grabbed with both hands."