Defender, striker, leader, captain, winner – Jon Shaw, South Shields’ man of steel
Jon Shaw is one of a select band of players to have left an indelible mark on South Shields FC.
It was announced on Tuesday that Shaw’s time as a Mariners player had come to an end after a distinguished six years, with the experienced campaigner to continue his playing career elsewhere and remain a key part of SSFC as head of professional development.
The numbers alone – 211 appearances, 27 goals, two promotions, five trophies – are impressive enough, but they barely begin to scratch the surface.
After signing as a 32-year-old following his departure from Gateshead in 2016, Shaw’s words proved to be prophetic.
He expressed his excitement at the “massive project” he was joining, said he wanted to be part of the next “three, four or five years” at the club, eyed a future in coaching, told of his dream to play at Wembley and spoke of the club’s desire to win the league that season. Tick, tick, tick, tick and tick.
Shaw also mentioned his ambition to continue his career until at least the age of 40, and it is that hunger which will drive him to his next club and ensure he enriches the next environment he enters every bit as much as he has done at South Shields.
It’s easy to forget that Shaw signed for the club as a striker, after a prolific career which had taken in spells with the likes of Luton Town, Burton Albion, Halifax Town, Gateshead and his boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday.
The steel city lad started his time with Shields in that fashion, too, forming a potent partnership with old mate Carl Finnigan and also combining menacingly with the likes of Gavin Cogdon, David Foley and Wayne Phillips.
But a tactical switch by Lee Picton and Graham Fenton in September 2016 – less than two months after Shaw made his competitive debut for the club – proved to be a masterstroke, and would come to define the player’s time in claret and blue.
Shaw was fielded as a centre-back in an FA Vase tie at Esh Winning and aside from the occasional eye-catching cameo and a run of games up-front in 2019-20, he did not look back.
The poacher became the gamekeeper and he did so in some style, establishing himself as one of the top centre-backs in each of the three divisions he represented the Mariners in and exuding class at every turn.
That extended to off the field, too, as Shaw’s leadership qualities rubbed off on his team-mates and staff throughout the club and he became part of the fabric of SSFC.
The club simply got under Shaw’s skin, with his remarkable debut season – which culminated in a 4-0 win at Wembley as Shields added the FA Vase to the three other trophies they lifted in 2016-17 – proving to be just the start.
A second successive promotion followed, as did a memorable run to the final qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup, and the defender was then deservedly handed the captaincy following the retirement of Julio Arca in 2018. No one could have worn the armband with more purpose or pride.
The leadership skills Shaw demonstrated as he aided the growth of his on-field ‘son’, Dillon Morse, among many others, made his progression in coaching obvious, and in 2019 he joined Shields on a full-time basis as head of professional development, working closely with the club’s Academy prospects to help guide their pathway into the first-team structure.
As the club adopted a hybrid and later full-time training model, Shaw would make an unexpected return to life as a professional footballer and retained his authority on the pitch, with his consistent performance levels continuing to set the standard.
He ticked another box in November 2020 when he was appointed as joint assistant manager to Fenton, a role he continued in after Kevin Phillips took the reins in January 2022 but will now relinquish as his playing days continue elsewhere.
It is to the club’s great benefit that Shaw’s influence will continue to be felt as he returns to his role of head of professional development, coaching and mentoring Academy players on a daily basis as they bid to make their first steps in the senior game, as he did almost 20 years ago.
Those near two decades in first-team football have seen Shaw represent 11 clubs across seven leagues, but there are few where he can be as synonymous as he is with South Shields.
He and his wonderful family are part of the South Shields family, and would have remained so regardless of his continued involvement with the Academy.
All at the club will be enriched by his ongoing presence, though, and there is little doubt that his influence behind the scenes will remain as strong as ever.
This, though, is a tribute to Shaw’s impact on the pitch. And it is one which will never be forgotten.
Thanks, Shawsy. The Mariners man of steel.