South Shields captain Jon Shaw keeps supporters updated in his second website blog.
The World Cup started out entertaining and hasn’t let up. There have been great games and exciting performances. This English side is playing a brand of football that we can all be proud of and regardless of the result against Croatia, the future looks bright. With the emergence of this confident, fearless mentality from a highly-organised, young bunch of players, I found myself gutted we lost but proud of what I’d watched even if there was still an element of ‘nearly’ again. England were led by Gareth Southgate, who nobody really expected to be a success, and who knows what it’s like to be a player in those situations. He has worked extremely hard to take the pressure off the players to the outside world, but I’m sure he puts high demands on them in training camps when they’re together. I would imagine everyone is pleased for Gareth after his own disappointment in 96, but what a way to come back. Following them are the Under-20s and Under-18s teams that have had great success over their last few tournaments and now people are looking forward to watching rather than expecting disappointment. France and Mbappe look the team that will win it but it should hopefully be a great final.
Back to us. It’s always good getting everyone back together, seeing everyone and getting kitted out in the new training kit and having a catch up on your summers. My rehab over the first week of pre-season was spent with Andy Morris trying to make sure I was prepared for the high intensity and demands of training and making sure I wouldn’t break down. One day shy of four weeks to the day of the op I trained fully with the lads to make myself available for selection for the first pre-season game which was my aim, so I’m really happy with how it all went and can’t thank Andy enough for his help with designing strengthening programmes and sessions to get me where I need to be.
The management, Lee and Graham haven’t let up in their work with behind the scenes preparations and have come to the players with new ideas to make us better as individuals and as a team to deal with the step up in standard, which the lads have immediately bought into. There’s a great work ethic in the group. Training has still been fun with the footballs incorporated almost all of the time, combined with the fitness work we will need as we aim to continue our recent run of success. To be honest, as you often hear now players don’t really let their fitness go too much and we’ve great lads with the right work ethic like Matty Pattison who was training with the youth team to make sure he stayed fit, and the rest of the squad have done their work. It’s noticeable and everyone looks sharp and ready to go.
The group has got slightly bigger again with the addition of Josh Gillies, who I’m a massive fan of. Josh was a fantastic young player at Gateshead when we were there and secured himself a move to league football. He has great awareness and ability on the ball, and with his ability with deliveries into the box and finishing, Josh is a great addition to the squad who the fans here will immediately take to. We’ve also had a number of the young players from the academy training and a few trialists which you expect in pre-season, and the standard has been fantastic so I’m sure there will be a few more names added to the squad in time for the start of the season.
Pre-season always starts with a tough week but it feels like it starts officially tonight and the lads can’t wait to get back on the pitch against Consett. Our opponents are under the new management of a previous team-mate of mine, Chris Moore, and I predict they will try to play a good brand of football which will hopefully make for an entertaining game on our pitch, which looks amazing at the minute thanks to everyone’s hard work at the club. We then have a busy schedule of games and different challenges, starting with Blyth Spartans, who are a league above and gave us a great game last year. Then we take on Hebburn, when we will get to see a few friendly faces who I’m sure will want to come back and beat us whether it’s pre-season or not. That will then bring us to the tournament with Celtic, Marseille and Southampton. What a great event that will be for the club, fans and area to be a part of. Ourselves as players will enjoy the test and hopefully you will all be there to see the amazing talent I’m sure these teams will bring to Mariners Park!
Lastly, I just want to say congratulations on behalf of the whole squad to Phil Turnbull and his partner on the birth of their daughter last weekend. I’m sure he would agree it’s the best feeling in the world. Let’s hope together we’re all celebrating again come the end of the season!
Hope to see you all at the game tonight, enjoy!