South Shields will play their first game in the Northern Premier League since reforming in 1974 when they travel to Greater Manchester to take on Trafford on Saturday.
The league opener has been much anticipated since the conclusion of last season, with this to be the Mariners’ first competitive fixture since triumphing in the FA Vase final at Wembley in May.
It is also their first league game since climbing out of the Northern League by winning Division One last season, a year on from lifting the Division Two title.
The Mariners are taking on a Trafford team which finished sixth in the table last season, missing out on the play-offs by just one place and two points.
Shields joint manager Graham Fenton is expecting Trafford to be up there again in the forthcoming campaign, having watched them in action with fellow joint manager Lee Picton during pre-season.
Fenton said: “We went to watch Trafford in one of their pre-season games, and they looked good towards the end of the match, when they brought a few more of their experienced players on.
“I definitely expect them to finish in the top six this season, so it will be a good gage of where we’re at at this early stage of the season.
“It will be a tough game, but the good thing is that it’s a nice pitch at Trafford.
“It’s a bit of a trek, which we’ve got to get used to, but we’re going down to a nice pitch and we should be able to play our brand of football on it.”
Shields go into the game on the back of a good pre-season which saw them defeat higher-ranked FC United of Manchester and Whitby Town, and draw with both Gateshead and Blyth Spartans.
Fenton added: “The only disappointing thing for me across the whole of pre-season was the first half at Blyth, when we just didn’t get going.
“I think that happened for a reason, and the lads have reacted really, really well to that.
“We had a really good performance against Sunderland last week, and another good performance last Saturday at Whitby, and we’re going into the season with players to come back as well. We’re really looking forward to it now.”
Memories of lifting the FA Vase in May are still fresh, but a new challenge now lies ahead for Shields.
We really hope you can make it to Trafford to support the team as they begin their adventure in a new league.
Admission – paid at the turnstiles – is £8 for adults, £5 for concessions and £2 for Under-16s. The postcode of Trafford’s Shawe View Stadium is M41 5DL.