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Mariners set for return to training as pre-season begins

After a break of more than a month, South Shields will return to training on Saturday.

The players will meet up again almost six weeks on from their superb triumph at Wembley in May, winning the FA Vase to complete a quadruple.

They are now set to begin their preparation for a new challenge in the Evo-Stik League North as they bid to make it three successive promotions.

The Mariners’ first pre-season fixture is scheduled for Saturday, July 15, when Gateshead visit Mariners Park.

Matches against FC United of Manchester, Boldon CA, Blyth Spartans, a Sunderland AFC XI and Whitby Town are also set to take place before the league season kicks off on Saturday, August 12.

Joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton are confident the pre-season programme will set Shields up nicely for the campaign.

Fenton said: “Pre-season is a hugely important part of the whole season.

“You could select something of an easy game schedule, but what do you get from winning 4-0 or 5-0 in pre-season?

“We’ve selected a tough pre-season against some very good sides. That will hold us in good stead for the season.

“We’re putting in a lot of work behind the scenes to try to progress from last season’s performances.

“We’ve got games against really good sides and will be trying to implement what we’re going to try to do during the season, and hopefully give the lads confidence doing that against good teams.”

Picton said: “We believe the squad is good enough to be very competitive with the sides we’re going to play against in pre-season.

“Some clubs I was with as a player elected to go the other way with an easier schedule.

“Some people might wonder whether six games is enough as well in pre-season. Some choose to play 10 or 11 friendlies.

“We believe there are a lot of gains we can make on a technical level with the training sessions.

“We’ve got 12 training sessions and six games in pre-season, which we feel is the right ratio to make the developments we want to make before the season.

“Across those six games, we’re going to face some different tests, in terms of the quality of player we’ll be up against and different sizes of club.

“We feel the games will be quite representative of the different styles we’ll come up against during the league season.”

The full pre-season schedule is as follows:

Saturday, July 15 – Gateshead (H, 3pm)

Thursday, July 20 – Boldon CA (A, 7.30pm)

Saturday, July 22 – FC United of Manchester (H, 3pm)

Saturday, July 29 – Blyth Spartans (A, 3pm)

Wednesday, August 2 – Sunderland AFC XI (H, 7.30pm)

Saturday, August 5 – Whitby Town (A, 1pm)