Mark Cooper signs new one-year Darlington contract

Mark Cooper
Cooper took over at Darlington in June after Simon Davey left for Hereford

Darlington manager Mark Cooper has signed a new one-year deal, taking him to the end of the 2011-12 season.

The 42-year-old has led the club to a May FA Trophy final date at Wembley in his first season in charge, despite off-the-field financial issues.

"I don't think it was any secret we were keen to finish off what we've started," Cooper told BBC Tees.

"With the squad we've got and additions in the summer we've got to look to go one better in the league."

"I'm very ambitious, I've had a taste of league football and I want to get back there as quickly as possible.

"There's no reason why myself, Richard [Dryden] and the team can't get back there."

Cooper was appointed in June 2010, after Simon Davey and Ryan Kidd quit within the space of a week.

Assistant Richard Dryden has also agreed a one-year extension to his contract at the Arena.

"He's good at what he does, and makes me a better manager, so it was important that we both signed," Cooper said.

"I don't think there was ever any doubt that if I signed then he was going to stay so it was important."

Prior to taking charge at Darlington, Cooper forged a reputation for improving the status of clubs during stints with Tamworth and Kettering Town.

Promotion to the top tier of the non-league pyramid was achieved with Kettering, while the Poppies also made it to the FA Cup fourth round in 2009.

Wins against Lincoln City, Notts County and Eastwood Town paired Kettering with Fulham, who edged the game 4-2 despite being held a draw with just seven minutes left, two late goals ended the game in the Premier League side's favour.

Such impressive work attracted the attentions of Peterborough United, who handed him a first opportunity in league management when Darren Ferguson left for Preston North End.

Unfortunately his spell at London Road lasted just two-and-a-half-months and 13 games, with just one win in that time.

However since returning to management at Darlington, the former Birmingham and Tamworth player has rebuilt the squad following the slide into the Blue Square Bet Premier.

Players such as Liam Hatch, Michael Brough and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson were brought in to add experience to the squad, while younger members of the squad such as Dan Burn, Curtis Main and Josh Gray have been given opportunities to express themselves at first-team level.

Burn in particular has flourished under Cooper's management, sealing a summer move to Premier League side Fulham.

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