Midfielder Blair Rossiter has committed his future to South Shields after signing his first senior contract.
The 18-year-old has been part of the club’s Academy for the last two seasons and has caught the eye during regular involvement in first-team training sessions during that time.
Rossiter has now been rewarded for those efforts and although he acknowledges he has much work to do to establish himself firmly in the first-team picture, he sees this as a key step.
The Scottish teenager said: “This is a brilliant moment for me and I’m hugely grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the two years I’ve been here and it has been challenging at times, but it has all been worth it.
“The efforts I’ve put in so far have paid off but I have to keep striving to improve now as the step into making regular appearances for the first-team is the most difficult one and I need to continually prove I deserve that.”
Rossiter was part of the famous Rangers youth set-up for eight years before making the difficult decision to leave the club and spend a year in junior football with East Kilbride prior to linking up with the Shields Academy.
He was initially unable to play competitive games for the Academy due to issues over his international clearance and Covid-19 brought an early end to each of his two seasons at that level.
The left footer impressed coaching staff at first-team and Academy level in the opportunities he was given to make a mark, though, and despite the obvious frustrations at not playing as much football as he would have liked, South Shields quickly became a “second home”.
Rossiter added: “I spent time with a host family when I came here and they were brilliant in terms of helping me settle in the area after such a big move.
“When I go home to Scotland I’m always raring to get back and train, which probably says it all about how much I enjoy it here. It’s like a second home for me.
“A lot of people say it but it’s true that this is like a family club and everyone is so nice to you, which makes it easy to settle in.”
Rossiter was part of the first-team group which spent two days in the Lake District this week taking part in a range of activities as part of a team building exercise.
Management staff were again impressed with the way he adapted to being part of that set-up but that came as no surprise given the strides he has made over the last two years.
Manager Graham Fenton said: “We’re extremely happy that Blair had put pen to paper on a contract with the club.
“He has really impressed us over the last couple of years within the Academy environment despite suffering some frustrations along the way through situations entirely out of his hands.
“Since he has come into the first-team environment he has excelled. We set Blair a challenge to improve on the physical side of his game and he has worked very hard to make inroads into that. He is looking fitter and stronger all the time and he deserves this opportunity.
“Blair is a very exciting young player who is technically very gifted, and supporters can hopefully look forward to seeing him make an impact in the first-team this season.”
Five different players were on the scoresheet as South Shields’ Academy side continued their impressive start to the season on Wednesday.
The young Mariners were 5-1 winners over Monkseaton High School at Temple Park as they continued their preparations for Mondays’ FA Youth Cup third qualifying round tie against Harrogate Town at Mariners Park.
Goals from Matty Williamson, Rob Ryland and Jake Dunn put Shields into a 3-0 lead and although Lewis Laidler pulled one back for Monkseaton, late strikes from Blair Rossiter and Jamie Prete sealed the Mariners’ win.
Head of Professional Development Jon Shaw was pleased with the performance.
He said: “After a really competitive start to the game we went 1-0 up before half-time, and after scoring our second and third we took control and put a good performance in against a good Monkseaton side.
“Big parts of the performance showed real signs of development and that the players are going in the right direction.
“It was a good win for us in the lead-up to the Youth Cup game.”
Shields have beaten Gateshead, Carlisle City and North Shields in their run to the third qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup.
Harrogate Town are now the only side standing in their way of a place in the main draw, with Monday’s match to kick-off at 7.30pm.
Admission prices are £3 for adults and £1 for concessions, and support would be hugely appreciated.
SSFC Academy team vs Monkseaton High School: E Hodgson, Minchella, Errington, Agnew, L Black, Dunn, Williamson, Rossiter, Ryland, Green, S Hodgson. Subs: Steavens, Stout, Prete, Cooper, Whitehead.