South Shields make double defensive swoop to land Darlington pair

Chris Hunter and Gary Brown
Chris Hunter and Gary Brown

South Shields have swooped to sign experienced defenders Chris Hunter and Gary Brown.

The Mariners have acted quickly to strengthen their squad after winning the Evo-Stik North title, landing the former Darlington duo after their contracts expired with the Conference North outfit.

Brown, who has skippered Darlington, is a centre half who has also played for Blyth Spartans and Jarrow Roofing. He had a spell in caretaker charge of the club in October 2017 alongside Phil Turnbull after manager Martin Gray left the club.

Joint manager Graham Fenton is delighted to have landed the 31-year-old and believes his experience will be vital next season.

He said: "Gary is a real competitor. He is a top player and person to have in the dressing room. He is a leader, winner and someone we feel will really compliment the lads we've got here already.

"I worked with him at Blyth Spartans earlier in his career, and he has matured and progressed really well since then. He has got better with age.

"He has won the Evo-Stik League a couple of times in his career so he knows what it's all about. We're really looking forward to working with him."

He will be joined at the club by right-back Chris Hunter, who will add extra experience after five years at Darlington, helping them through the leagues.

The 31-year-old hails from South Shields and will provide competition at full-back as well as cover in the centre of defence.

Picton said: "He's another fantastic competitor and an excellent athlete. We feel that Chris will bring that extra level of athleticism that we're undoubtedly going to need in the next league up.

"He's also a South Shields lad, and someone who's desperate to play for his hometown club. He's massively looking forward to the challenge ahead.

Brown and Hunter are the first signings in what promises to be a busy close season for the Mariners, with Picton and Fenton understood to want around half a dozen fresh faces to add competition for places.

Picton added: "They are signings which give us fantastic competition to add to the quality we already have. We just felt going into the back end of this season that our defensive options were very limited.

"Darren Lough, Craig Baxter, Jon Shaw and Dillon Morse had to play a lot of games back to back. These signings give us not only competition, but an opportunity to potentially rotate players as and when we see fit."