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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Penney dropping at Darlington
By Pete Oliver

Dave Penney
Penney feel his side has improved significantly in defence
Sunderland's Roy Keane is not the only manager who has found it tough to entice transfer targets to the North East this summer.

Just down the road at Darlington, Quakers boss Dave Penney has also had to fight to assemble a new squad.

The WAGs shopping culture which angered Keane may not have filtered down to League Two but Penney had his work cut out in selling the 'Darlington dream'.

"The main thing is the geography," he told BBC Sport.

"They can see the set-up. We have got a fantastic stadium, some great training facilities and most people know what I am about, the work I did at Doncaster and how I want to play football.

"We can also compete with most financially, so the location is the thing.

"I know Roy Keane had a pop about it, although we're not quite at that level.

"People get settled and don't want to upset the family. It's easier to attract younger players but we wanted some older ones.

"It can be difficult to drag them north, but I'm happy with the ones we have got."

Despite the obstacles in his path, Penney's hard work paid off with the arrival of a dozen new faces over the summer to go with the handful of signings he made last season following his appointment at the end of October.

I'm delighted with the players I've got in.

Dave Penney

Striker Pawel Abbot came up from Wales and winger Kevin McBride down from Scotland with plenty of others from in between.

"Certain players we missed out on and certain players I didn't think we would get, like Neil Austin for instance, getting him to come from Barnsley," Penney added.

"Some you win and some you lose but I'm delighted with the ones I've got in.

"I'm happy with the competition we've got in most places but we still need to add another one or two.

"Hopefully that will be done before the end of the window to carry on what we've started."

Penney wants to add a further wide player, defender and goalkeeper to his squad to help sustain a challenge at the top end of League Two.

He has done it before with Doncaster and now has several of his previous promotion winners back with him at the Darlington Arena - notably defender and captain Stephen Foster who he lured this summer from Scunthorpe United.

Others, like Tim Ryan, Greg Blundell and Ricky Ravenhill, came in last season as Penney quickly weighed up the drastic surgery he felt was required following the messy end to David Hodgson's third spell in charge.

"We felt it needed to be done. Nineteen players have left in the time that I've been there because we didn't feel they were good enough to get us where we want to be," Penney said.

"We needed to change things round. I don't think there will be a problem in getting them to gel off the pitch as there are some seasoned pros there.

"It's just how quickly they gel on the field."

The early evidence is encouraging with two wins and no goals conceded in the league so far to put Darlington top of the table.

Penney places great store in his new-look defence which was disrupted by injuries in pre-season but came together just in time to form the basis for the Quakers' solid start.

It can be difficult to drag players up north

Dave Penney

He added: "We have defended well and sitting on the bench I feel a lot more secure knowing we have strengthened and who we've got in defence. Last year I was not so comfortable.

"If you are conceding goals the midfield and front players are aware of that but we have looked more solid and, touch wood, that will continue which means the front players can express themselves."

Penney believes there is plenty more to come from his team going forward as they get used to playing together.

Among his attacking options is former top-flight forward Julian Joachim, who committed himself to the club over the summer after an unsettled period brought about by the distance from his family home.

From the previous managerial regime Clark Keltie, Michael Cummins and Martin Smith, once he regains full fitness around Christmas time, will also have big roles to play, according to Penney.

And with Durham's cricket team having brought success to the region as one-day knock-out champions, Penney hopes that will rub off on his team which trains next door to their Chester-le-Street home.

"They have been going for 15 years and have got their first silverware. Hopefully we can carry that on and get some ourselves," he said.

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