Since the conclusion of the 2018-19 season, a series of meetings have taken place at management level to continue the evolution of the club’s long-term future.
Coming out of those meetings were a number of strategic decisions which have been made with the club’s sustainable growth and ambitions in mind.
We are now in a position to confirm our exciting restructure.
Following lengthy discussions over a number of months between the board and first-team management, the club will adopt a new hybrid model during the 2019-20 campaign.
This hybrid model will entail the first-team managers, Lee Picton and Graham Fenton, being able to take advantage of increased contact time with much of the first-team squad, with two additional training sessions to take place each week.
It is a significant commitment by the club and further underlines the faith of the board in the abilities of Picton and Fenton, who are preparing for their fourth season in charge of the first-team.
The long-term view is that the hybrid system will ultimately progress into a completely full-time model, although we anticipate this could take a number of years to come to fruition.
There will be an emphasis on promoting exciting young prospects and giving them a platform to showcase their talents, with a continued focus on developing players through the club’s own academy.
Two of last season’s academy squad will be regular members of the first-team squad next season, with details to be announced soon.
The club feels that this initiative will further enhance the opportunities of success for the first-team as it strives to progress higher up the league pyramid.
Picton and Fenton will also continue to be heavily involved in the coaching of the academy and will aim to add to the success of its first two seasons, which culminated in the academy’s first national title in May.
The academy’s leadership is to be strengthened by the addition of Jon Shaw, who will join as Head of Professional Development on July 1, alongside his continued role as first-team captain.
Over recent months, the club has developed a strong relationship with the Harton and Westoe Miners’ Welfare, which includes representation on their Board of Trustees, and an agreement has been reached to allow the first-team to use the facilities at the Harton and Westoe Miners’ Welfare Ground for training purposes.
A programme of additional activities will also be developed there by our SSFC Foundation, whilst maintaining all existing user groups at the facility.
The Foundation, headed by Steve Camm, will grow programmes which will allow the club to further diversify and broaden its role as a community club across a wider range of sports and health and well-being activities.
The club can also confirm the promotion of Wess Brown to Academy and Recruitment Manager.
Brown will head up the recruitment for the club from Futures Academy to first-team, and oversee the alignment of the club’s player development from age six upwards, which will include working alongside Shaw in developing players through the 16-19 academy programme.
Brian Smith will aid Brown with first-team recruitment alongside his role as assistant manager, and Catalyst Professional Sports Management will continue to assist the club with recruitment for the first-team and academy.
Brown will also continue with his coaching and leadership of the club’s Futures Academy alongside Jamie Williams, in conjunction with Mortimer Community College.
The Futures Academy is preparing to welcome its second intake of students in September following a hugely positive first school year.
A benefit of this continued growth will be a further commitment to the next generation of footballers in the area.
SSFC Foundation’s Thinkers and Movers sessions, led by its Programme Delivery Lead Nathan Kew, will continue and help feed youngsters into a new programme for under-6s.
Christopher Reay, who has been appointed as the club’s Foundation Phase Lead, will lead the new under-6s programme and manage a smooth transition for players into under-7s teams, whilst also providing a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme for Foundation Phase coaches at the club.
After confirming the club restructure, Chairman Geoff Thompson said: “This is a very exciting time for South Shields Football Club and we are confident that these changes will greatly assist with our long-term ambitions.
“Reaching the Football League as a community-based club is our goal, but a lot of effort and commitment will be required to turn that ambition into reality.
“The appointments and changes we have decided to make underline that we see this as a long-term project which will require a huge collaborative effort.
“Allowing Lee and Graham the opportunity to spend more time with the first-team players is key for us, and we are excited about the impact that could have as they bid to maximise the potential of our squad.
“The appointment of Jon was also a no-brainer for us.
“He has been a hugely positive influence, both on and off the pitch, since joining us three years ago, and after a terrific two years with Monkseaton High School’s football academy, we are delighted to add him to our 16-19 academy leadership team.
“We are all eagerly anticipating the 2019-20 season and are hopeful there are lots of exciting times to come.
“Our supporters have been with us every step of the way during the thrilling journey we have had so far, and we are going to need that to continue to make all of this a success.
“It’s critical people continue to get behind us, and we will reward that commitment with an enormous determination to maximise the potential of this club and get it as far as it can possibly go, however long that may take.
“Let’s do this together.”
The club is rewarding the loyalty shown by supporters by giving them the opportunity to sign up for a 2019-20 season ticket at an early bird price.
Fans will be given the opportunity to pay for their season tickets with a one-off payment or through monthly installments.
Those looking to take advantage of the deal must sign up before Wednesday, May 1.
The club will be reviewing its pricing structure at the end of this season, with factors including the league we will be playing in next season set to be taken into account.
Signing up early gives you the opportunity to secure your ticket at this season’s prices, regardless of which league we are part of in 2019-20.
Standard season tickets are on general sale now, with season tickets with a seat and tickets with balcony access to go on general sale on Friday, March 29.
Existing balcony and seated season ticket holders have until March 29 to secure their place for next season before those tickets go on general sale.
South Shields chairman Geoff Thompson said: “Our supporters have once again given us tremendous backing this season and we have been looking at ways to reward them for their loyalty.
“Hopefully, giving them the opportunity to secure their ticket for next season now – effectively offering them a price-freeze regardless of the league we are playing in – does that.
“We have regularly been the top-supported club at our level in the country this season and there is little doubt that the backing we have been given has contributed to our fantastic home record.
“Next season will be another tough and vital one – whichever league we are in – so we are going to need that support to continue as we step up our efforts to one day reach the Football League.
“We would hugely appreciate it if supporters committed to 2019-20 as soon as possible to once again demonstrate why we have one of the best fanbases in non-league football.
“We have also listened to feedback from supporters who would prefer to pay in monthly installments, and we hope the introduction of a standing order scheme will give more people the opportunity to become season ticket holders.
“Once again, we thank all supporters for their magnificent backing, which we truly appreciate.”
Below are our early bird prices for those making a one-off payment.
Entry only – Adults £170, Concessions/Students £135, Under-16s £35
Balcony (limited to 100 people) – Adults £210, Concessions/Students £165, Under-16s £65
Seat in stand (limited to 115 people) – Adults £230, Concessions/Students £185, Under-16s £100
Please note, if you opt to pay in monthly installments rather than a lump sum, the overall amount you pay will be slightly higher.
Below are our early bird prices for those paying in nine monthly installments, which will start in May through a standing order scheme and be completed in January 2020.
Entry only – Adults £20 a month (£180 overall), Concessions/students £16 a month (£144 overall), Under-16s £4 a month (£36 overall)
Balcony – Adults £24 a month (£216 overall), Concessions/students £19 a month (£171 overall), Under-16s £8 a month (£72 overall)
Seat in stand – Adults £26 a month (£234 overall), Concessions/students £21 a month (£189 overall), Under-16s £12 a month (£108 overall)
Those looking to make a one-off payment for their season ticket can do so by clicking here.
Supporters who would prefer to pay in monthly installments are asked to visit Mariners Park to fill in a standing order form between 12pm and 5pm on weekdays, or until 9pm when the bar is open.
The forms will also be available on matchdays.
All season tickets are also available to buy in person during the times previously mentioned.
The club thanks all supporters for their continued outstanding backing.
South Shields left-back Blair Adams dropped in on an end-of-term showcase performance by pupils at a South Tyneside school to deliver a special surprise on behalf of the club.
The former England Under-20 international was joined by fellow club representatives Jamie Williams and Wess Brown to present Epinay Business and Enterprise School with a cheque for £1,000.
The club decided to make the donation after making a number of visits to the school, with officials left impressed by the outstanding work delivered by staff and the tremendous attitude and behaviour of pupils.
Epinay caters for children and young people aged four to 19 with a wide range of special educational and complex needs.
The school is led by headteacher Chris Rue, who had two spells as a player with South Shields.
Mr Rue added: “It is fantastic to have a partnership with our local football team, especially in these exciting times when South Shields FC are climbing the leagues and attracting such a huge fanbase.
“Our children are big supporters of the club, and many of them are now spending their Saturdays at Mariners Park.
“The players themselves are such positive role models and their work in the community has been shared during assemblies, so our children really do look up to them.
“The £1,000 donation has helped us build an outdoor classroom.
“This educational space allows children to do a number of things. I have already seen them rehearse performances and complete academic and vocational work in the space.
“It allows the children more freedom to express themselves and work in a more exciting and creative work space.
“I would personally like to thank Geoff Thompson and everyone at the club for their kind donation.
“We really hope our friendship and partnership grows over the season and beyond.”
Adams, Williams and Brown attended the school’s Christmas showcase performance, where pupils wowed an audience of family members and school staff with a range of dance routines.
South Shields FC chairman Geoff Thompson said: “As a club we really want to make our work more representative of the community and we recognise the invaluable role that Epinay plays in supporting children with additional needs.
“We think they do a great job and are really impressed with the environment that Chris and his staff have created.
“We’re impressed by the innovative ideas that they have and are really keen to support them.
“Everyone who has visited the school has been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and energy of the children and the care of the staff for them.
“We hope that this donation helps to make a positive difference for them.”