South Shields joint manager Lee Picton is expecting an emotional day as the Mariners get ready to pay tribute to one of their own on Saturday.
A minute’s silence will be held ahead of the game against Matlock Town at Mariners Park in memory of 10-year-old Jak Fada, who passed away just over a year ago.
The club has earmarked it as Jak Fada Day, with all children accompanied by an adult to be given free entry to the ground.
It also promises to be a difficult match for Shields against a Matlock side which has not been beaten since September.
Picton said: “It will be a poignant day for everyone connected to the club.
“Jak was well-known to so many people here and his passing affected us all.
“As Jak’s family will testify, the football club was a very special place for him, and that is a constant reminder to all of us as to the opportunity we have to potentially impact people of all ages in a massively positive way.
“I know everybody will want to pay their heartfelt respects during the minute’s applause ahead of the game, and as a club we hope we can do justice to the memory of Jak before, during and after the match.”
Shields and Matlock last met in September, with the Mariners running out comfortable 3-0 winners.
The Gladiators have improved significantly since then, though, under new manager Dave Frecklington.
They go into Saturday’s match in eighth, just one place behind Shields.
Picton is expecting a tough encounter.
He added: “Matlock will provide another massively stern test for us as a squad.
“Matlock have been the in-form side over the last couple of months, and will undoubtedly come to Mariners Park full of confidence and ready to go toe-to-toe with us.
“Because of the slip-ups we’ve had so far this season in the league, especially away from home, we’re obviously not in the position we would have liked to have been in after 16 games, so we must look to continue our mini winning run in the league with another three points tomorrow.”
Shields remain without injured duo Anthony Callaghan and Barrie Smith, while Nathan Lowe will serve a one-match suspension on Saturday.
The Mariners are hopeful Carl Finnigan and Blair Adams will shrug off knocks to play.
Kick-off is at 3pm and admission prices – which can be paid at the turnstiles – are £10 for adults and £8 for students and over-65s.
Under-16s can enter for free, with a maximum of two free children per one paying adult.
A young South Shields supporter and volunteer left devastated after his bike was stolen was surprised by his heroes as they presented him with a replacement.
Much-loved Jak Lewis, 15, was left without his pride and joy when it was taken from outside South Tyneside College on November 8.
When they heard about the teenager’s plight, Shields’ players and staff joined forces to buy him a new bike.
Jak regularly helps out at the club’s training sessions and even joins in the warm-ups with the players, who have taken him to their hearts.
Striker Carl Finnigan said: “The lads were absolutely gutted when we heard the bike had been stolen.
“Jak is a fantastic lad and has spent a lot of time around the club with things like training and travelling with the team to away games.
“He has helped me out an unbelievable amount with the coaching camps we’ve done and things like that.
“Everyone was extremely upset and angry for him because he’s a genuine, honest lad.
“There were a few suggestions in the dressing room and as a group of lads, we came together straightaway and decided as a club to get the money together and get him the bike he really wanted.
“He was absolutely chuffed to bits.
“He’s a tiny little guy but has got a massive personality.”
Jak is also a budding football coach and can be regularly seen at Mariners Park on matchdays and non-matchdays.
He was left lost for words after his heroes – who have become his friends over recent months – presented him with his new Trek Marlin 5 mountain bike.
He said: “What they’ve done for me is absolutely brilliant and I’m so happy they’ve done it.
“I was so upset when the bike was taken as I loved it and didn’t feel the same without it.
“The players and staff have gone out of their way and I really appreciate it.
“It was a huge surprise. I didn’t know anything about it.
“It has been one big plan and everyone has been dying to tell me.
“I love the bike.”
Mr Burns said: “It was bad for me and Jak’s mam when he lost the bike and must have been horrendous for him, because it was his pride and joy.
“He cherished it and every penny he got, he spent on it.
“Putting into words what the club has done for him is impossible.
“It’s not only what they’ve done for him with the bike, because they’ve done a hell of a lot more for him as a person.
“Since he started coming to this club they have taken him by the hand, welcomed him and made him feel so good about himself.
“He’s a completely different lad.
“It’s testament to the football club, testament to the people that run the football club and testament to everyone that’s within the football club.
“We all love the club and this has just brought us even closer.”
Enthusiastic youngsters marked themselves as media stars of the future as a new partnership between South Shields Football Club and The Word kicked off.
They were among about 150 children from the two schools who attended the Mariners’ game against Mickleover Sports earlier this month.
The lucky 11 were then invited to attend a media workshop at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word to record and capture their matchday experience.
The workshop was led by artist James Whitman, who was helped by South Shields defender Blair Adams – who has a degree in sports journalism – club media officer Daniel Prince and Foundation manager Steve Camm.
Adams said: “I was really impressed with all of the children and there are definitely some reporters of the future among the group.
“They did a fantastic job working in a live studio at The Word, first writing a match report before then reading it out on camera.
“I know how difficult that sort of thing is as I did a lot of it while studying for my degree, so the children did really well.
“They were also excellently behaved and were a credit to their schools.
“It was a great way to begin this partnership.”
The Year 5 and Year 6 pupils split into four groups, with St Bede’s represented by Ryan Shabani, Riley Bell, Lucas Britton, Will Watson and Jude Hill.
Westoe Crown’s pupils were Lillie Oliphant, Molly Jewitt, Penny Simpson, Matthew Bennett, Isaac Cave and Tom Hobson.
Tania Robinson, head of marketing and culture at The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, said: “We’re delighted that The Word has been able to play a part in this exciting venture, which has hopefully fuelled young people’s interest in literacy by sharing their sporting experience.
“This is a very exciting partnership with South Shields Football Club which hopefully will continue to grow and it has also put a spotlight on the fantastic facilities we have at The Word, including the media studio run by OpenZone and the support we received from the library service along with the sponsorship from Mirabaud.
“All of this contributed to a really memorable day for everyone involved.”
Westoe Crown and St Bede’s were the first two schools to take part in South Shields Football Club’s new schools programme.
This week, they have been to Sea View Primary School and Stanhope Primary School as they continue to recruit the ‘Class of 2023′ – youngsters they hope will be the 12th man by the time they turn 16 and the club is, as it aims to be, Football League-ready in five years’ time.
The Sea View and Stanhope pupils will attend Saturday’s game against Matlock Town at Mariners Park before a number of them will be selected to attend the same media workshop.