Anthony Callaghan has decided to leave South Shields following the expiration of his contract.

The left-back was asked to attend pre-season training by the management with a view to demonstrating his fitness and earning a new deal following his recovery from back surgery, but has opted to look for options elsewhere.

The 25-year-old, who joined from Washington in October 2016, made his 50th and final appearance for the Mariners as a substitute in the Durham Challenge Cup final defeat to Shildon in May.

That was his first appearance since Boxing Day 2017 after he was supported by the club and physio Andrew Morris in his recovery from a serious back injury.

The club would like to wish Anthony well for the future and thank him for his service.

Callaghan said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of Shields’ incredible journey over the last two-and-a-half years.

“I will always cherish the memories of contributing to the revival of such a great club and being involved in two successive promotion campaigns.

“I’d like to thank the club – not least the medical staff – for supporting me in my recovery from injury.

“It will of course be a big wrench to no longer be involved at Shields, but with my contract ending, I am looking forward to a new challenge and playing regular football at the best level possible now I am fully fit again.

“It goes without saying that I wish Graham, Lee and all the players every success, including promotion this coming season.”

Further announcements about the playing squad will follow in due course.

Left-back Anthony Callaghan has joined Whickham on a month-long loan as he steps up his recovery from a long-term back injury.

Callaghan underwent spinal surgery last August and has not played for South Shields since an away match against Kendal Town on Boxing Day in 2017.

He completed a temporary move to Northern League Division One side Whickham earlier this week, and made his debut as a substitute in their defeat to Whitley Bay on Tuesday.

South Shields joint manager Graham Fenton said: “Anthony has had more than 14 months out and it’s very difficult for us to drop him straight into the team here to get some minutes.

“We’ve got two really good left-backs in Blair Adams and Darren Lough there at the moment so it was always going to be difficult to get Calla in.

“He wanted to play football, so we’ve got him out on loan.

“Whickham have kindly said that they’ll increase his game-time, which is great of them.

“He’ll start off with a few minutes in games, which will gradually increase over the loan term.

“It’s going to be really beneficial for Calla and hopefully he comes through it without any other injuries, because what you tend to find is that the injury you’ve been out with is not the one you need to worry about, it’s all the other stuff because your body hasn’t been used to playing.

“Whickham have been great with us and said that they’ll increase his game-time as they see fit.”

Anthony Callaghan is closing in on a return to contention for South Shields after almost 14 months out.

Callaghan suffered a back injury midway through last season, and made his most recent appearance for the club on Boxing Day in 2017 against Kendal Town.

He underwent spinal surgery last August and, after a period of rehabilitation, he is now set to make the final steps in his comeback.

Joint manager Graham Fenton is hopeful the 24-year-old will be available for Tuesday’s Durham Challenge Cup semi-final trip to Dunston UTS.

Fenton has hailed the left-back for the way he has handled the frustration of the last 14 months.

He said: “Calla will possibly be in contention to start his comeback on Tuesday at Dunston UTS.

“He has been magnificent throughout the time he has been out.

“He has missed 14 months of football but the way he has handled things has been really impressive.

“We knew he would always keep himself right and work hard, but how he has dealt with it psychologically has been brilliant.”

Callaghan has worked closely with club physio Andrew Morris during his time out.

As Fenton explains, the challenge has been to stop him doing too much, too quickly.

He added: “He’s chomping at the bit to get back playing again, and the challenge with Anthony is to hold him back from doing too much.

“It’s better to have that sort of situation than having to force someone to do things, but it can sometimes be detrimental to the player, so we have to be careful and manage his comeback properly.

“It will be brilliant to have him as part of the squad again.

“We need as many options as possible at this time of the season.”

Callaghan has made 49 appearances for Shields since joining from Washington in October 2016.

He was a key player for the Mariners during the first half of last season, and played an important role in the club’s run to the final qualifying round of the FA Cup.