South Shields FC can announce that the decision has been made to relieve Graham Fenton of his first-team management responsibilities, and he will now begin a period of gardening leave. 

Academy manager Wess Brown will take charge of the squad on an interim basis while the club undergoes the process of identifying and appointing Graham’s successor.

Club chairman Geoff Thompson said: “This has been an extremely difficult decision to make.

“Ultimately, results and performances have not met our expectations this season given the investment made in the first-team and the club’s ambition.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to Graham for all the tireless work he has dedicated to the club since his arrival in 2016.

“His long list of achievements, coupled with the huge contribution he has made to the club’s overall growth over the last five-and-a-half years, will never be forgotten.

“He leaves the club in a far better place than when he arrived.”

Graham initially joined the club as joint manager in September 2016 alongside Lee Picton, and the pair led the team to back-to-back promotions and five trophy wins.

The 2016-17 season in particular, which culminated in a fourth trophy of the campaign in the FA Vase final at Wembley, will live long in the memory of all those associated with the club.

Everyone at South Shields FC would like to thank Graham for his incredible efforts and wish him the absolute best for his career and life moving forwards. Graham and his family will always be welcome at the club.

Further announcements will be made in the coming days and supporters are thanked for their patience.

South Shields return to action with a home fixture against in-form Radcliffe on Saturday (3pm kick-off).

The Mariners have not played since the New Year’s Day victory over Scarborough Athletic at 1st Cloud Arena, with last Saturday’s trip to Mickleover postponed due to positive COVID-19 cases and widespread player unavailability in the Shields squad.

There is more positive news on that front ahead of the meeting with Radcliffe, who are 14th in the Pitching In Northern Premier League. Shields sit fourth, with games in hand on all those above them, and could go as high as second if they win and other results go their way.

Manager’s view

Manager Graham Fenton insists the league table counts for little heading into Saturday’s game.

Radcliffe have been in superb form since Bobby Grant took over as player-manager in October and have tasted defeat just four times in the league since then as they have gradually climbed the table.

The Boro are a different proposition to the team Shields defeated 4-0 in the reverse fixture in September, something Fenton was keen to stress after watching them narrowly beaten by promotion-chasing Bamber Bridge in midweek.

He said: “Having watched Radcliffe on Tuesday, I’m well aware that their current placing of 14th is not a reflection of where they are at.

“They are a much-improved side from the last time we played them in September, and our players are fully aware that this is going to be a really tough examination of where we’re at.

“Since Bobby Grant took over as player-manager, he has got them really well-organised and playing a good brand of football.

“The way they play the game should mean that the match is a very good spectacle, as both teams like to keep the ball on the floor as much as possible and try to play through the thirds from the back.

“We know we’re going to have to be at our best to come away with the three points.”

Team news

All those previously infected with COVID-19 are expected to return to contention for Shields against Radcliffe, with Conor Tee, Alex Kempster and Joao Gomes – who were all set to miss the Mickleover game with injuries – also expected to be available.

Fenton is hopeful JJ Hooper and Cedric Main will return after injuries, but Jordan Hunter (arm), Callum Ross (knee) and Myles Boney (ankle) will all miss out.

Shields have covered for the loss of goalkeeper Boney – who is expected to be back in training in 10 days – by signing Barrow goalkeeper Scott Moloney on a one-month loan. He could make his debut on Saturday.

Matchday information

Kick-off at 1st Cloud Arena on Saturday is at 3pm, with the turnstiles set to open at 12.30pm.

Admission prices are £10 for adults, £8 for students, over-65s and disabled supporters, and £3 for under-16s, and tickets – including seats in the newly-improved CEFO Group Stand – can be purchased in advance until 12pm on matchday by clicking here. Cash turnstiles will also be in operation.

Segregation will be in place, with Radcliffe supporters to be directed to turnstiles 3 and 4. Shields fans, meanwhile, can enter the ground through turnstiles 1, 2, 5 and 6.

Happy Hour pricing will be in place at all bars between 12.30pm and 2pm, and from 6pm to 7pm.

Meanwhile, a mobile vaccine team will visit 1st Cloud Arena ahead of the game, offering first, second and booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to anyone aged 12 and over. The minibus will be located outside of turnstiles 1 and 2 between 10am and 3pm.

Programmes are priced at £2 and feature an in-depth interview with cover star JJ Hooper, columns from Graham Fenton and Blair Adams, an in-depth look at Radcliffe, a catch-up with former Shields defender Gary Brown, all the latest from our Foundation, Academy and Ladies team, and so much more.

If you are unable to attend the game, follow live updates on the club’s Twitter channel, www.twitter.com/southshieldsfc.

Graham Fenton has provided a positive squad update as South Shields prepare to return to action against Radcliffe on Saturday.

The Mariners’ trip to Mickleover last weekend was postponed after a number of positive COVID-19 cases and injuries, leaving Fenton unable to call upon the minimum number of players required.

However, there is better news on that front leading into the meeting with Radcliffe at 1st Cloud Arena, with all those who were infected with COVID expected to be available.

The prognosis is more mixed when it comes to injuries, but Fenton is hopeful of having a strong squad to select from.

He said: “JJ Hooper’s calf is recovering and although that’s a situation we will need to continue monitoring, we’re hopeful he will be back available on Saturday.

“Conor Tee, Alex Kempster and Joao Gomes have all returned to training without any issues this week and we’re also confident of having them available for selection.

“Cedric Main’s groin is still a bit tight but we are also hopeful on him, but the game will definitely come too soon for Callum Ross and Myles Boney.

“Callum is set to have a scan on his knee this week and we will know more on his situation after that, and we’re expecting to have Myles back in training after his ankle injury in 10 to 14 days.

“Jordan Hunter is progressing well, but again this game will come too soon for him.

“He joined in full contact training this week for the first time since suffering a broken arm, and he is slowly gaining confidence that the arm is strong enough to go back into matches.

“We’re really hoping that we will see Jordan back in a South Shields shirt before the end of January, and can’t wait for the day that happens.”