The club would like to congratulate Academy forward Harry Gardiner after he signed a two-and-a-half-year scholarship with Sunderland AFC.

Harry joined the SSFC Academy in the summer of 2020 and excelled during his short time in claret and blue.

During a difficult period as football grappled with the many challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, Harry’s talent and attitude shone through as he made a fine start to life at 1st Cloud Arena.

Those qualities caught the attention of a number of professional clubs including Sunderland AFC, who offered him an eight-week trial before signing him up on a long-term basis.

We would like to wish Harry all the very best for what we are sure will be a bright future in the game.

Academy manager Wess Brown said: “We were only a short part of Harry’s football journey but what a pleasure it was to be the final stepping stone on his journey to a professional club.

“We are very happy to see Harry reach another level, but on the other hand sad to lose such a great player and person.

“The first time I watched Harry I knew he would be perfect for our scholarship programme.

“He is a quiet lad on and off the pitch but his intelligence shouts louder than any player I’ve seen for a long time.

“Harry has a bright future and has excelled in our environment, and I hope he does the same at Sunderland AFC.

“We wish him all the luck in the world on his new venture.”

Harry said: “I’ve absolutely loved it at South Shields.

“It’s a family club with so much togetherness running through it.

“The coaches at both academy and first-team level were great with me, as were all of my team-mates.

“It’s a great club and I’ll definitely get to as many games as I can in the future and keep in touch as I loved every minute of it.

“You always knew there was a pathway to the first-team too because the first-team coaching staff would regularly watch us train, which always gave us that added boost.

“I feel like I’ve improved so much as a player as a result of my time at South Shields, particularly with my knowledge of the game, and I can’t thank everyone at the club enough for making my time there so valuable and enjoyable.

“I’m excited to start my journey with Sunderland as they were my boyhood club and to now get the opportunity to play for them is a special moment for me.”

South Shields retained the Sam Bartram Memorial Cup after victory over Boldon CA on a wet afternoon in South Tyneside.

A young Shields side started the game with a fast pace, creating plenty of chances with skillful runs down the left wing. Oscar Taylor scored the opening goal for the visitors on eight minutes after some impressive work by Charlie McLeod, who danced through the Boldon defence and layed it off for his team-mate to fire it past the goalkeeper into the roof of the net.

Only a minute later the hosts hit the bar following some quick build up play, but Shields cleared and almost made it two on a rapid counter-attack, with Boldon having lots of work to do at the back.

Some back and forth play led to a Boldon penalty appeal just before 20 minutes but the referee was unmoved, letting the game go on. High pressing from the hosts led to their first shot on target, with a looping ball over from the left into Shields keeper Aaron Steavens, who quickly released the ball to his defence which gave the visitors a chance to go on yet another counter-attack, which was subsequently quashed by Boldon. 

With 15 minutes of the half left to play, former Shields favourite Jonny Wightman netted the leveller with a powerful strike into the roof of the net following some patient build-up play from the hosts. Inspired by their equaliser, the Villa created numerous chances and when Dan Nolan found himself one-on-one, he slotted the ball calmly past the keeper to give his side the lead.

Straight down the other end less than a minute later, Shields levelled it. After a fast build-up, Taylor found himself in the opposition penalty area and rounded the keeper to slot it home for his second of the game, and the equaliser.

End-to-end play finished the half, with both sides having the opportunity to go ahead before the break. Shields keeper Steavens produced a brilliant low save to keep his side level before the whistle blew for half-time.

The second period of play resumed just how the first had ended, with some brilliant work by both sides as there was counter-attack after counter-attack, with Villa eventually winning a penalty as Wightman was fouled in the area. Although Steavens went the right way, Levi Collins put his side ahead from the spot.

A quiet 10 minutes followed until finally, on 73 minutes, Shields had their second equaliser of the afternoon, as substitute Lewis Lukeman raced down the left wing, beating his man and putting it on a plate for another Shields sub, Harry Gardiner, who slotted it home for the visitors.

Shields were now on top and hit the woodwork following a corner on 82 minutes before embarking on numerous further attacks. Their persistence paid off, as three minutes before time a looping cross from the left found the head of James McGeorge, who put it past the keeper for the eventual winner.

Shields keeper Steavens began to gradually lose his voice, barking orders at his defence from between the sticks as the game neared its conclusion. It was a great performance from the youngster, who produced a number of top class saves during the 90 minutes. 

Boldon ended the game strongly as they searched for a goal but couldn’t quite get it, with Shields emerging victorious and retaining the cup with a side full of young talent.

Ex-Shields player Wightman won the home side’s man of the match award, with McLeod also getting a much deserved man of the match award for his brilliant performance. 

Captain Joe Lockey collected the trophy for the visitors after a deserved win for Shields, and a performance to be proud of for all of the young lads on the pitch.

South Shields: Steavens, Morris, Neary, Aldus, Lockey (c), Errington, Ames, Williamson, Taylor, McLeod, Whitehead. Subs: Davey, Gardiner, Lukeman, McGeorge.

South Shields Academy enjoyed an impressive start to the season, scoring a host of goals and staying unbeaten in the National League Under-19 Alliance Division I heading into lockdown at the start of November.

Sitting top of their league by three points and picking up four wins and a draw, Shields have only conceded three goals and kept three clean sheets, thanks to some solid defensive displays.

Highlights have included storming to a 7-1 win at the Washington Hub as they took on Pontefract Collieries Under-19s, with Harry Gardiner netting four goals for the hosts. 

An all-North East clash with Newcastle Benfield in late October produced the young Mariners’ only draw of the league campaign so far, with Gardiner scoring again in a 2-2 draw north of the Tyne.

The FA Youth Cup provided the Shields youth side with a visit to Altrincham after reaching the final qualifying round by beating fellow North East sides Consett and Darlington. They also received a bye against North Shields due to a number of players self-isolating for the side across the river. Charlie McLeod and Oscar Taylor stole the show during this competition for the Mariners, with Charlie scoring five and Oscar four.

Shields are yet to begin their ECFA League campaign, with this expected to commence after lockdown. The side will be hoping to carry their stellar form forward and hope to travel to Billingham Synthonia in December to resume the season and work towards securing more wins and points throughout the remainder of the games.