As the Evo-Stik NPL season reaches a thrilling climax Non-League Daily sat down with Darlington captain Kevin Burgess to assess his side’s promotion hopes.
Bouncebackability – (Especially in sport) the capacity to recover quickly from a setback:
“promotion-chasing sides need to show the requisite bouncebackability after defeat”
It may seem strange to some that Darlington captain Kevin Burgess is using the above phrase when discussing the Quakers chances of achieving promotion into the Vanarama National League North this season.
‘Bouncebackability’ was the rather overused term used by former Crystal Palace and Coventry City boss Iain Dowie, a man used to spending his playing and managerial career battling relegation, rather than chasing promotion.
However, after Tuesday’s away defeat at Frickley Athletic, Burgess has urged his side to show that they can put the loss behind them and continue to pressure league leaders Blyth Spartans.
The Quakers sit seven points behind their North East rivals and hold three games in hand on the Northumberland outfit.
They continue their promotion push – and a hectic schedule – with two games in three days.
That starts with a home game against FA Trophy semi finalists Nantwich Town on Thursday evening, before they face an away fixture against Grantham Town just over forty hours later.
And Burgess(pictured right in his first spell at the club) is ready to make sure their defeat at Frickley was just a one-off.
He said “This season we have always shown that we can put a defeat behind us. We have shown that we have bouncebackability and we need to show that once again after Tuesday.
“We have a changing room full of leaders and we have to all stand up and be counted, we will front up to this challenge.
“There are seven games left this season so we have to just forget where we are in the league. The simple fact is if we win all seven, we are champions, that is a big prize and a big motivation for us.
“It’s a cliché but every game is a cup final for us now but we know what we have to do”
As he enthusiastically discusses the closing stages of the season Burgess exudes confidence and belief.
Those two attributes are partly down to Burgess’ view that the spirit in the Quakers dressing room is one of the best he has experienced in a career that began in Middlesborough’s academy.
“We have a core squad at Darlo and there is a real togetherness.
“Without it we wouldn’t have come back to win 4-3 at Salford City and we wouldn’t have the belief that we can win this league.
“The manager (Martin Gray) drives that on, he only wants positivity in there and he has always said if there are negative voices he will get rid.
“He drills that into us and it shows when we walk out on to the pitch”
There is a clear admiration shown by Burgess towards his manager, as he continued to pay tribute to the work done by the former Sunderland and Oxford United midfielder (pictured left) during his time in charge of the Quakers.
“I can’t speak highly enough of Martin.
“I knew him from my first spell at the club and he is a born winner.
“His passion for football, his attention to detail and his confidence rubs off on all of the players and we want to win this for him as much as anyone else”
Whatever division they ply their trade in next season, it will be a historic season for the club.
In late March it was confirmed that the club would return to their hometown after spending the past four years playing at Heritage Park, home of EBAC Northern League side Bishop Auckland.
A move back to Darlington will be a major boost for the club and, in Burgess’ belief, more importantly their supporters.
He said “There is a buzz around the club right now and all of the players are talking about the move.
“We are delighted for the supporters because they have followed us to Bishop Auckland.
“And not just there, we always take a two or three hundred supporters away with us and I think there was around four hundred at Frickley.
“I am very happy to see them get the move back to Darlington because it makes it easier for them and I am sure they will continue to get right behind us”
For now Burgess and his team mates will focus on the present, as they look to round off their season with a title win.
And that, according to the former Whitby Town player, is the priority.
“It has been a great season and we are playing in a tough league.
“Any team can beat anyone on their day and we have coped well with the pressure.
“But now we have to finish the job and we want to be champions first and foremost”
For Burgess and everyone at Darlington, that challenge and the challenge of bouncing back, starts on Thursday night against Nantwich Town.
Interview: Mark Carruthers