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.”
Craig Baxter has committed his future to South Shields for the 2019-20 season by signing a new contract.
The right-back has been an integral part of Lee Picton and Graham Fenton’s side since joining from Gateshead in the summer of 2016.
His stay at Mariners Park will now extend into a fourth year as Shields aim to win promotion from the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
Baxter has made 145 appearances for the Mariners so far, scoring five goals.
Speaking about his new deal, Baxter said: “I’m glad to get it sorted so I can enjoy the rest of the summer, and I look forward to coming back in pre-season.
“I’ve been here for the last three years and it has been successful.
“We just fell short last season but I’m sure we will bounce back and go again.
“I’ve enjoyed it ever since I came here, and I told Lee and Graham that.
“Hopefully next season will be just the same and we’ll go again.”
South Shields joint manager Graham Fenton said: “We’re delighted that Craig has pledged his future to the club for at least another season.
“He has been one of our most consistent performers over the last few years and we’re really looking forward to seeing those high levels of consistency over the next year.
“Craig is fantastic to have around a dressing room and is liked by all of the staff and players here.
“He’s also appreciated by the supporters, who can see how much hard work he puts in and how good he is at what he does.
“One other positive is that he has promised us a few more goals like the winner he scored at Whitby last season, so we’re looking forward to seeing that!”
Further player announcements will be made in due course.
South Shields defender Dillon Morse has signed a new two-year contract with the club, with an option for a further year.
The 24-year-old has established himself as a key player at Mariners Park since joining from Blyth Spartans in the summer of 2016.
He started all but four of Shields’ matches in all competitions in 2018-19, a campaign which saw Morse narrowly miss out on winning a third consecutive promotion with the club.
In total he has made 144 appearances for the Mariners to date, scoring 25 goals.
Morse has committed himself to the club despite interest being shown in his services by clubs further up the non-league pyramid.
Speaking about the new contract, he said: “I’m over the moon to have signed a deal to be part of this great club for at least another two years.
“The three years I’ve been here have been brilliant for me personally and for us as a team, and I’m delighted to commit my future here.
“I have already made a lot of great memories with the lads and now we look forward to next season, where we will hopefully create lots more of those memories.
“I feel I’ve progressed a lot as a player under Lee Picton and Graham Fenton, and alongside the lads here, and I can’t wait to see how much more I can develop over the next two seasons.”
Among Morse’s finest moments at Shields so far was scoring in the final of the FA Vase in 2017 as the club completed a quadruple with a 4-0 win over Cleethorpes Town at Wembley.
Joint manager Fenton said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Dillon has pledged his future to the club for at least the next two years.
“Dillon has been magnificent for us over the past three seasons and we wanted to continue that relationship with him moving forwards.
“He realises he has still got improvements to make and with more time spent here, I’m sure with his attitude and application he will get better as time goes on.
“Dillon represents the future of this football club in terms of the players we are looking to recruit.
“He is a young, hungry, enthusiastic footballer with lots of talent and we’re delighted that we will be able to continue working with him going forward.”
Further announcements will be made in due course.