Club Statement: Transition to full-time training model
It is with excitement that the club can announce the first-team will complete its transition to a full-time training model ahead of the 2021-22 season.
The squad has operated within a hybrid system for the last two seasons, with a maximum of two evening training sessions attended by the entire group, and at least two additional day-time sessions for those players able to commit to them.
In order to maximise and make best use of the contact time available with the players, it has been decided that now is the optimal moment to progress to a full-time model.
This news is tinged with sadness, however, with four players having informed the club they will be unable to commit to the new training structure and therefore cannot renew their contracts this summer.
Phil Turnbull, Craig Baxter, Lee Mason and Josh Gillies will all see their time at 1st Cloud Arena come to an end upon the expiration of their current deals.
The club has held positive conversations with captain Robert Briggs, who has expressed his desire to agree new terms subject to his working arrangements. Robert remains an integral part of the club’s plans and we hope to be in a position to make a positive announcement on this soon.
Manager Graham Fenton has explained the club’s reasoning behind the change in training structure.
He said: “This is a hugely exciting moment for the club and for us as a management team, as it gives us so much more scope to improve standards on and off the pitch.
“Operating in a hybrid structure for the last two seasons has been a major learning curve for us and although it had its real benefits, we always knew it would also present some challenges which could only be overcome by eventually progressing to a full-time model.
“This gives us the chance to be more flexible with the training schedule, and we will be able to get the balance between training and rest better in the lead-up to games.
“For example, in the last two seasons the full-time players have trained on a Thursday night and Friday morning, meaning some of them may have been a little fatigued because of a lack of rest between those sessions and the games.
“We’ll now be able to structure the week better so we can focus on the physical side early in the week and ensure all the players are fresh going into the weekend games and ready to give it everything they’ve got.
“All of the training sessions will now take place during the day, giving us the chance to spend more time with the whole squad to work on everything we need to get us in the best possible shape for each match. Last season we were often only able to work with the full group once a week, and we hope this change will lead to positive results.
“It also allows us as a management team to get out and watch other games during midweeks when we are not playing matches, and generally just gives us much more scope to maximise the potential of our squad.”
Fenton was quick to acknowledge the major contribution made by the departing quartet of Turnbull, Baxter, Mason and Gillies.
Baxter was the longest-serving of the four, having made 201 appearances in claret and blue since joining from Gateshead in the summer of 2016. He was part of the historic quadruple-winning squad of 2016-17 and was a constant force at right-back, as well as a reliable, intelligent and versatile player capable of deputising in other positions when the need arose.
Midfielder Turnbull, meanwhile, signed for his hometown club in 2018 from Darlington and made 94 appearances during his time at 1st Cloud Arena, realising a lifelong ambition in representing the Mariners, which he did so consistently in the centre of the park.
Mason was a January 2018 arrival from North Shields who quickly endeared himself to supporters with his stylish play and eye for goal, and he departs with a record of 32 goals in 88 appearances.
Gillies was another 2018 signing from Darlington, and the wideman quickly made his mark with the Mariners with a series of impressive displays. He scored 18 goals in his 71 appearances for Shields.
Fenton added: “It is a real sad moment to lose those four players, all of whom have made such valuable contributions to the club over recent years.
“Supporters will have a real affinity with them all and it is upsetting that they are unable to continue on the journey with us because of work commitments, but they can all leave with their heads held high having represented the club so well.
“We thank them wholeheartedly for their efforts and wish them the very best of luck for the future.
“Losing four players of this standard means our recruitment is going to be key and of course creates an additional challenge for us, but we hope the supporters are excited as we are as to the continued progression and ambition the club is showing.
“We are greatly looking forward to getting the players back into training and are looking ahead with real optimism to the 2021-22 campaign.”
Plans have been formulated to strengthen the squad ahead of next season and the club looks forward to keeping supporters updated as this process continues.