Only hours after sacking Gary Mills, York City has announced his replacement as part of a surprise double appointment.

The club today (Sunday) named Martin Gray as first team manager and Dave Penney as sporting director.

Gray, 46, has resigned as manager of National League North rivals Darlington to take up the position at Bootham Crescent.

Chairman and owner Jason McGill says Gray is an “ambitious and talented manager who deserves an opportunity with a full-time club”.

He revealed that York-born former England manager Steve McClaren had personally recommended the former Sunderland midfielder for the vacant role.

New management structure

Club chairman Jason McGill. Photograph: York City / YouTube

McGill also feels that the new managerial structure can make City a stronger club going forward.

“We need a new approach at the football club,” said McGill. “We need to work hard, entertain our supporters, be professional and, most importantly, win games.”

The chairman added:

In Martin Gray, we have identified a manager who has consistently achieved impressive results without the benefit of the resources and infrastructure that he will have at his disposal here.

Before appointing Martin, we spoke to a number of leading figures in the game who have the best interests of York City at heart.

One of those was Steve McClaren who felt York City should give serious consideration to appointing Martin Gray – if and when they were ever looking for a new manager.

After speaking to Martin, I was immediately impressed with his views on football management. He is ambitious and talented and I feel he deserves an opportunity at a full-time club that has serious ambitions to return to the EFL.

Excellent contacts

Dave Penney pictured in 2009. Photograph © Ingy The Wingy on Wikipedia

On Penney’s appointment as sporting director, McGill said: “Dave is someone with an abundance of experience at various levels of the game, who understands scouting and recruitment, and who has excellent contacts in the game.

“He will be responsible for the overall performance of the various sporting departments at the football club.”

He said that the new sporting director will not pick the team.

“He will assist but not lead training or determine tactics. The manager will also have the final say on all signings.”

Penney’s role will also involve development of the club’s footballing identity, improving the club’s scouting network, and ensuring high standards are maintained throughout the club.

“His extensive knowledge of the football industry will be a major asset,” said McGill. “I am also confident that this new structure will make the club stronger going forward.”

Three promotions

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Gray has been in charge at Darlington for the last five years and is the only manager in the north-east club’s history to win three promotions.

After winning the Northern League in 2013, the Quakers finished second in Evo-Stik First Division North in 2014.

In 2015, they again finished second in the table but Gray steered his side to promotion via the play-offs.

Gray led Darlington to the Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division title in 2016 before finishing fifth in National League North last season.

The Quakers were blocked from taking part in last season’s play-offs, however, as their ground failed to meet National League criteria.

Lifted the title

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Former Derby County midfielder Penney, 53, steered Doncaster Rovers into the Football League in 2003 before lifting the Division Three title in 2004 and establishing the club in Coca-Cola League One.

He has also managed Darlington, Oldham Athletic, and Bristol Rovers and worked as assistant to Phil Brown at Southend United. He spent last season working as Guiseley’s assistant-manager in the National League.

Significantly, Gray has worked alongside Penney previously at both Darlington and Oldham.

Statement from Darlington FC

Darlington Football Club today regretfully confirm the resignation of Martin Gray as our manager.

After discussions with club directors John Tempest and David Johnston this morning, Martin has made it clear that he believes he has taken the club as far as it can go, given the current club structure and funding.

We would like to put on record our thanks to Martin for five fantastic years, during which he has guided the club from the Northern League to National League North, winning three promotions along the way. We wish him well in his future career.