Midfielder Julio Arca is set to return to training tonight (Tuesday) as he hands South Shields a boost ahead of an important double-header this weekend.
Arca has been visiting family in Argentina since mid-July, but is expected to be available for the games against Bamber Bridge on Saturday and Scarborough Athletic on Monday.
The former Sunderland and Middlesbrough favourite will face a battle for his place, of course, with the Mariners having started the campaign with three consecutive victories.
However, joint manager Lee Picton is delighted to have him back in the fold, just days after fellow key player Gavin Cogdon also returned from holiday.
Picton said: “We’re three games into the season and have won all three, but still feel there is much yet to come.
“We’ve still got a lot of lads in the dressing room who aren’t 100% fit yet, and that’s going to have an impact as well.
“It was really, really good to have Gavin Cogdon back in the fold on Saturday, as well as Darren Lough.
“We’ve got Mr Arca coming back this week too, which will only strengthen us again, so there is lots of competition for places.”
The weekend double-header will see Shields come up against two teams who are tipped to have a big say in the promotion race this season in EVO-STIK North.
Bamber Bridge, like the Mariners, have started their league campaign with back-to-back victories, while Scarborough have four points from their opening two games.
Picton feels the Mariners will have to utilise their squad if they are to have a chance of maintaining their 100% record.
He added: “It hasn’t been an easy start. Trafford were a tough test for us in the first game in particular, and now we’ve got Bamber Bridge and Scarborough in the space of three days.
“They’re teams who I’m sure have got aspirations of being there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
“We’re going to have to do what we did at the back end of last season and utilise the squad again across the weekend.
“We’ll give some careful consideration as to how we plan that strategy, but we’re thoroughly looking forward to it.
“We’ve got an opportunity to train twice this week, and then follow that up with two games in quick succession.”
If you’d like a place in hospitality for the game against Bamber Bridge at Mariners Park, please call 0191 454 7800.
Tickets also remain available for the trip to Scarborough on Monday. Please dial the same number, or visit Mariners Park, if you would like any.