Pre-season preparations are now well underway for South Shields, with the countdown continuing to the Mariners’ first friendly.
An exciting programme of fixtures has been put together by joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton to help prepare the players for the challenge ahead in the Evo-Stik League North.
The squad – including new signings Matty Pattison and Luke Sullivan – returned to training on Saturday, July 1, and supporters will get the chance to see them in action on July 15, when the first pre-season match is played.
Here is the pre-season schedule at a glance…
South Shields vs Gateshead – Saturday, July 15 (3pm)
Less than two months on from the FA Vase final, the Mariners will return to action with a tasty-looking fixture against National League side Gateshead. The match, to be held at Mariners Park, could see ex-Heed stars Jon Shaw, Craig Baxter, Carl Finnigan, Matty Pattison, Robert Briggs, Dillon Morse and Liam Connell come up against their former club. Winger Luke Hannant, meanwhile, could come up against Shields, less than a year after he made four appearances for the club as part of a dual-registration deal with Gateshead. Hospitality is available for this fixture – please call 0191 454 7800 if you are interested.
Boldon CA vs South Shields – Thursday, July 20 (7.30pm)
Traditions will be upheld on July 20 when the Mariners make the short journey to the Boldon CA Sports Ground to compete for the Sam Bartram Memorial Cup. The trophy is challenged for every summer between South Shields and Wearside League outfit Boldon CA, in memory of former goalkeeper Sam Bartram. Bartram, who was born in South Shields in 1914, went on to play for Boldon Villa before making his name with a famous spell at Charlton Athletic, with whom he won the FA Cup in 1947. In last year’s contest, Shields won 5-2, thanks largely to a hat-trick from Jon Shaw.
South Shields vs FC United of Manchester – Saturday, July 22 (3pm)
The clash between Shields and FC United of Manchester promises to be an extremely interesting occasion at Mariners Park. FC United, who were set up in 2005, now play in the National League North, so will provide the Mariners with a strong test of their credentials. They are also expected to bring a good following of supporters, having attracted an average home crowd of more than 2,500 last season. The club was founded by a group of supporters who became disillusioned with modern football at the top level, and with Malcolm Glazer’s takeover of Manchester United. The largest fan-owned club in the UK have had an impressive rise since. Hospitality is available for this fixture – please call 0191 454 7800 if you are interested.
Blyth Spartans vs South Shields – Saturday, July 29 (3pm)
A week on from the FC United clash, Blyth Spartans should provide a similar standard of opposition at Croft Park. Spartans were promoted from the Evo-Stik Premier Division as champions last season, with Alun Armstrong’s men accruing an impressive 101 points. Key player Dan Maguire was retained in the summer, while the club recruited Dale Hopson from Whitby Town as they prepared for life in the National League North. Former Blyth players Dillon Morse, Alex Nicholson, Robert Briggs and Michael Richardson could all make their returns to Croft Park, as will Graham Fenton and Lee Picton, who have both had spells within Spartans’ backroom staff.
South Shields vs Sunderland AFC – Wednesday, August 2 (7.30pm)
The match against a Sunderland AFC XI at Mariners Park promises to be a special occasion in more ways than one. A clash with the Black Cats would be exciting in any circumstances, but the game will also double up as a testimonial for loyal Shields striker Stephen Ramsey in recognition for his 10 years of service at the club. Although it is a testimonial, Picton and Fenton are to treat it in the same manner as all of the other friendlies as they begin to add the final touches to their preparations for the new season.
Whitby Town vs South Shields – Saturday, August 5 (1pm)
The Mariners’ final pre-season friendly sees them travel to face Whitby Town at the Turnbull Ground. Whitby will provide Shields with another tough test, having narrowly missed out on the Evo-Stik Premier Division play-offs last season. Among their ranks is former Mariners midfielder David Carson. This will be a rematch of a friendly between the sides last summer, which Shields won 1-0 on a baking hot July afternoon. After this match, the Mariners will have just one more week to wait until their adventure in Evo-Stik League North begins. The fixtures for the upcoming league season will be released on Thursday, July 13.