DUANE Darby is set for a surprise return to Cradley Town.

The former boss has been named as the replacement to previous manager Nigel Birch.

Darby will take up the position at the start of next season despite the fact he quit the club to take up a first-team coaching role with Midland Combination outfit Bromsgrove Sporting just last year.

Birch announced two weeks ago that he was going to step down as manager at the end of the current campaign due to plans to relocate after taking up a new job outside of football.

However, he has since resigned earlier than planned and left assistant Ian Broad to take charge of the side for the remaining fixtures.

Club secretary David Attwood said: "Duane Darby will be the manager next year and it will be good if he can build on what we have achieved this season.

"Nigel left earlier than we expected but we are pleased that Duane will be our manager next season.

"He is a different sort of manager to Nigel and will just quietly go about his work."

Cradley have lost the last two games under temporary boss Broad. They suffered defeat away from home against Malvern last weekend before going down 1-0 at Ellesmere Rangers on Tuesday night.

The Hammers will now travel to take on another away fixture when they meet Smethwick Rangers this Saturday.