South Shields FC – It’s Games That Count

By Bob Wray

I much enjoyed a most pleasant duty on Saturday, March 22nd with the presentation of an inscribed plaque on behalf of South Shields FC to the president of Tow Law Town FC on the landmark occasion of the club’s record 3,000th Northern League game.

The significance of the award interested me sufficiently to consider the formulation of a similar exercise for South Shields, and to attempt to ascertain as is currently possible the complete number of league games played throughout the club’s total existence.

This will be from origins that are definite and historically proven, and through the reformations that the club has experienced in the course of its history.

Albeit and indubitably in instances some different clubs in essence, though nevertheless all with the same brand name and identity of title.

That said, a compilation presented a few immediate problems where early days are concerned in the current absence of a few years of local town and district league tables.

So while a finite number is not as yet available, and is therefore what may be termed not an exact science, it is nevertheless possible to state that a figure of the order of some 3,750 games from 1895 to date from all current data and information to hand on file with league tables, match results by season, accumulated newspaper reports, book extracts, match programmes etc etc is therefore considered to be very probably quite accurate.

This total also does not include any cup games, or friendly fixtures and such competitions as the Vaux Floodlight League, and finally the aggregate number of games entire compilation is restricted obviously to the club first team only.


c1870’s plus    Unconfirmed and exiguous data being researched.

1888 – 1891.  Friendly fixtures only. The commencement of 125 years history …..

1.   1895 – 1896   Tyneside League.


2.   1897 – 1902.   Northern Alliance.


3.   1899 – 1904.   Several South Shields local junior leagues.

4.   1904 – 1906.   South Shields and District League.

5.   1906 – 1908.   Tyneside League.

6.   1908 – 1909.   Northern Alliance.

7.   1909 – 1915.   North Eastern League.

8.   1916 – 1918.   Tyneside Combination.

9.   1918 –  1919.   Northern Victory League.

10. 1919 – 1930.   Football League, Second and Third Division.

Left to become Gateshead.


11. 1936 – 1940.   North Eastern League, league closed after four games due to war.

12. 1945 –  1958.   North Eastern League.

13. 1958 – 1960.   Midland League.

14. 1960 – 1962.   Northern Counties League.

15. 1962 – 1964.   North Eastern League.

16. 1964 – 1968.   North Regional League.

17. 1968 – 1974.   Northern Premier League.

Left to become Gateshead United.


18. 1974 – 1976.   Northern Alliance.

19. 1976 – 1995.   Wearside League.

20. 1995 – To date Northern League.


Here are some pictures of past Shields teams:

Photograph One

img043This photograph was found in a Shields public house. It shows what is believed with reason to be a local side, and is considered dated circa 1890, based on the garb of the players, indicative of the period.

‘Clam diggers’ style trousers, caps and even ties complete the apparel, identity and location is more of a problem.

The central front player is thought to be Peter Howe, known to have been a product of Harton Star FC, and later of Hull City and South Shields AFC and maybe also earlier in his career.

However, continued research may hopefully eventually produce a team identity.

The original South Shields Football Club was established in 1888 and had a short career of only three years, but fixture lists have fortunately survived as documentary proof of its existence.

Hopefully further research clues may emerge to establish and perhaps prove a link between it and this photograph …..which as least serves to portray the football strip style and fashion of those times.

Photograph Two

img044This photograph features South Shields Athletic FC, which similarly had a short career of only five years 1897 – 1902 and which was a member of the Northern Alliance League.

The club played at the Athletic Ground, situated at the east end of Mowbray Road.

The team comprised of mainly ex-Football League players, notably from Newcastle United and Sunderland.

Photograph details concerning the identity of players and officials, and the location and date, are currently unknown.


Photograph Three

img045This photograph features South Shields Adelaide Athletic FC, and is considered to be 1904 – 1905 vintage.

The club enjoyed a meteoric rise from comparative local obscurity to membership of the Football League from its founding in 1899 as a schoolboy team in Adelaide Street Laygate, to its national debut in the Football League Second Division in August 1919.

Identified local football personalities are back row far left Sam Dawson, who was formerly associated with South Shields Athletic FC, and who in 1913 became a member of the board of directors of South Shields AFC.

Far right doyen later to be of local football administrators is Joe Edmondson, secretary of the ‘Laides’ when only 21 years of age in 1906, and who thereafter completed over 40 years in football, many as SSAFC secretary.

Several players are identified that are featured on later SSAFC photographs.

Centre is Christopher ( Kit ) Inskip, club general factotum and whose son Jack was the founder, and who is featured front right.


These three unique and rare photographs all similarly recovered in fortuitous circumstances from other than the usual research sources both illustrate and explain the diversity of the origins of the town senior football club, and in so doing complement both its longevity and of the club attaining the prodigious figure of some 3,750 league games in the accumulated total of 125 years plus of its combined existence.