FORMER Darlington goalkeeper Adam Bartlett is relishing the potential hostility that will be generated by York City’s visit to his old club this weekend.

Bartlett and left-back David Ferguson both chose to follow City boss Martin Gray after he made the switch from part-time Darlington to professional outfit City at the start of October.

The former Sunderland midfielder has also now recruited his ex-Quakers backroom staff members Brian Atkinson (matchday analyst), Sean Gregan (defensive coach), Mark Bell (goalkeeper coach) and Harry Dunn (chief scout) at Bootham Crescent.

City’s Darlington connections don’t end there either, with sporting director Dave Penny having managed the County Durham club between 2006 and 2009, while forward James Gray is another former player.

Ex-Darlington keeper and goalkeeper coach Andy Collett is no longer on the Minstermen’s staff though, having taken up a position with National League Gateshead.

Bartlett left Blackwell Meadows in November and, on Saturday’s return, he admitted: “We know it will be a hostile environment, because it’s a derby game.

“It was hostile when I was a Darlington player and came to York in August, so I expect nothing different there. But, when you’re growing up as a kid, you want to play in big games, so you’ve got to look forward to them.”

Having decided to make the 55-mile switch south, meanwhile, Bartlett appreciates he might receive a hot reception from the hosts’ fans, but only has positive memories of his time with the former Football League club, as well as under Gray’s successor Tommy Wright.

“I signed for Darlington in March and played 28 games for the club,” he pointed out. “I enjoyed my time there and made good friends with people in the background and on the playing side.

“That will go out of the window on Saturday when we’re trying to get three points and the opportunity to move to York at 31 was too good to turn down for me. It was the biggest club available to me and that’s not a dig or a snipe at Darlington.

“All I want to do now is my best for York City, but that’s nothing negative against Darlington. I had a few games with Tommy Wright when he came in as manager and he was fantastic with me when I spoke to him and gave him the heads up that I wanted to come to York.

“He could have stood in my way, but he knew my personal circumstances and I’ve got nothing but praise for him and his staff.”

A measure of vitriol is also expected to be directed at Gray, but Bartlett argued that the Stockton-born, 46-year-old achieved great success at the helm of their old club, declaring: “He did a phenomenal job, taking the club from the lowest place they’d ever been to three promotions in five years.

“He should have had the chance to make that four last season after making the play-offs, only for that opportunity to be taken away because the ground wasn’t up to standard. That’s a fantastic CV and he brought good players and backroom staff to Darlington too.

“Any stick he might get from the club now might be because they are disappointed to have lost him and, hopefully, he can add more promotions to his CV at York.”

Since Bartlett moved on, Darlington have lost four of their subsequent six games, dropping to fifth-bottom in the table – just two points above the relegation zone.

But their only victory in that period was a shock 3-1 home triumph over title contenders Harrogate Town on Boxing Day and, with well-travelled former Forest Green and Tamworth marksman Reece Styche in their ranks, Bartlett is not under-estimating his old side, “They have brought in Reece Styche and he has done well at this level and the one above,” the former England C net-minder pointed out. “He’s a hard-working centre-forward who puts himself about and has a bit of an attitude about him.

“There’s also a few players who Tommy Wright has brought in from Nuneaton and others who have been at the club for a long time and are Darlington through and through. The club means a lot to them and I’m expecting a tough game.”

Bartlett is delighted, meanwhile, to be going into the game following the club’s first clean sheet in 17 matches.

He was only between the sticks for half of those games – the rest were shared between Jon Worsnop, Luke Simpson and Bailey Peacock-Farrell prior to his arrival – but Bartlett confessed: “It has been frustrating to go eight games before my first clean sheet and it was also happening prior to me coming to the club, so I’m over the moon to get that monkey off our backs.

“It should have come sooner and we should have had one on Boxing Day, but one silly mistake meant North Ferriby ended up scoring. I didn’t have much to do against them on New Year’s Day.

“Their boy cut in and hit the post, but I never felt that shot was on target and, as a back four and a team of 11, we defended really well. The pressure was on because they are bottom of the league and these games can be tricky fixtures, because they have nothing to lose, but we fully deserved the win and, hopefully, me and the club can build on the clean sheet now in the coming games.”

While the defence has come under scrutiny following the four-month wait for a shut-out, Bartlett went on to claim that adding greater protection for the back line has improved the side’s shape out of possession.

“We’ve got a sitting midfielder now who doesn’t motor too far forward and it helps when everybody isn’t flooding up the field,” he explained.

“It was sometimes too easy for teams to get balls into their front man, which puts the defence under unnecessary pressure, but Sean McAllister was very solid in front of the back four and Daniel Rowe came on and did it very well too (on Monday).”