South Shields FC is delighted to confirm its Academy coaching structure for the 2021-22 season as part of its continued commitment to provide the best possible pathways and learning experiences.

As the Academy prepares to welcome its latest cohort of players alongside returning students, a highly-qualified team of coaches is ready to help influence the next stage of their development.

First-team manager Graham Fenton and joint assistant manager Jon Shaw will continue to support across all aspects of the Academy, with an open environment in place across the club to allow continued collective growth.

Academy manager Wess Brown will lead the 16-19 Academy, whose teams will again compete in the National League Under-19 Alliance and ECFA Premier League next season.

Brown said: “The 16-19 Academy continues to provide a platform for players to excel and move onto our first-team, with three players being offered senior contracts this year.

“The club continues to grow and develop with the first-team moving to a full-time model, Lee Picton moving into a new role as chief executive and Jon stepping into an assistant manager position with the first-team, which has meant a further staffing restructure within the Academy.

“My role continues to be to lead the 16-19 programme and support the development of all children across the club, as well as aligning coach behaviour through our coaching beliefs and playing philosophy.

“Recruitment has gone well even with the restrictions we all faced at the start of the year. We attract lots of interest in our 16-19 Academy and the processes we use take time as we feel that bringing in the right people is key to success.

“We look for certain behaviours on and off the pitch which align to our own, ensuring players and families know the expectations of the club before they step through the door.”

Jamie Williams has moved into a player and coach development role across the club, which utilises his strengths in connecting with others and supporting their progression.

He is working alongside Brown on the future of the club’s youth development programmes and how improvements can continue to be made.

Williams said: “Despite the challenges and stop-start nature of recent seasons we have remained progressively minded and forward thinking as a club to ensure that when the 2021-22 season finally arrives we are well-placed to help even more young players progress through the club’s pathway.

“As well as a number of exciting additions to the club’s player development pathway which are soon to be announced, we are enthused by the new staffing structure that will enable us to offer a more personalised experience for Academy players, with increased staff-to-player interaction and creating even more synergy throughout the club.

“The new full-time model at first-team level will only increase opportunities for the younger players to learn from, mirror and marvel at our senior role models within the club.

“Graham, Jon, Brian Smith and Phil Naisbett have always engaged superbly with the whole Academy and we envisage this support and guidance will only improve over the coming season.

“As well as keeping ‘connection’ strong between first-team and Academy it is our intention to join up what happens at 17-19 with the 12-16 age groups within the football club by adding further coaching support and expertise alongside increased coaching provision.

“When you connect skilled and aspirational young players with skilled and ambitious coaches you have a recipe for success.”

Blair Adams has joined the 16-19 Academy coaching team, ensuring a first-team player will continue to work day-to-day with the club’s young players.

He said: “The Academy has enjoyed a lot of success over recent years and I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to build on that and fulfil a long-term coaching ambition to work within a 16-19s age group.

“The last three years working with Jamie and Wess with the Futures Academy at Mortimer Community College has been a rewarding experience for my development as a coach and I am now excited by the fresh challenges working with the 16-19s will provide for me.

“I am confident my experience in the game will help the players gain success on and off the field.”

Mike Slater now moves into a lead role with the club’s Futures Academy in partnership with Mortimer Community College, supported by new coaching addition Kieren Laverick.

Slater said: “I see the Futures Academy being an ever-evolving programme in order to constantly improve the offering available to our players.

“Fundamentally, this comes down to our coaching and games programme being the best it possibly can.

“This includes opportunities for mixed age training across the 12-16 programme, in addition to the oldest players within the Futures Academy training with the Under-19s, something we have already started with our Under-14s this season.

“For the 2021-22 academic year, we are introducing a programme titled ‘Football+’.

“It is a personal development programme designed for the students to further themselves away from playing football, enabling them to achieve coaching and refereeing qualifications alongside life skills training.

“It is an element of our programme that I am really excited to see start, as I believe it will help us to develop excellent young people as well as excellent young footballers.

“Ultimately, we need to continue trying to have the ‘best school days ever’ and I believe we can do this through the relationships we have with the players in our programme, and our desire to constantly improve.”

Laverick said: “I am excited to be able to support the Futures Academy and the club moving forward as it’s a programme that I have been really interested in over the last few years and have supported on numerous occasions as a volunteer too.

“The opportunity to work with some incredible people – both coaches and players – is something I feel really lucky to have and I can’t wait to give my all to develop new and better opportunities for young players within a club and project that I am so passionate about.”

Picture caption: From left to right, Wess Brown, Jamie Williams, Blair Adams, Kieren Laverick and Mike Slater.

Graham Fenton declared himself delighted with the progress of South Shields’ academy players after two more impressive victories were delivered on Wednesday.

While one team defeated Eccleshill United 5-0 in the National League Under-19 Alliance, another young Mariners side beat Gateshead College 1-0 in the ECFA Premier League.

Fenton and fellow joint manager Lee Picton split responsibilities on the day, with Fenton overseeing the win over Gateshead College and Picton steering Shields to victory at Eccleshill alongside head of youth performance and development Jamie Williams.

The win against Gateshead was sealed thanks to a second half goal from Stevie Black, and Fenton was pleased with the performance against the league leaders.

He said: “We controlled the game, particularly in the first half.

“In the second half they played a high press, and we managed to open them up three or four times.

“Stevie Black showed great composure to win us the three points in the end.

“He burst into the box and shaped to shoot, sent two people to the floor and finished well.

“It was a really, really good finish.

“We dominated the majority of the game and fortunately produced the one bit of quality in the game.

“It was great for our teams to record two wins on the day to continue our good form, and it’s really nice to see the way the players are progressing.”

The game was notable in that it marked a first involvement with the academy for goalkeeper Aaron Steavens, who played against the club’s first-team in the Durham Challenge Cup for Chester-le-Street Town in December.

Meanwhile, Max Cowburn and Junior Marcelino both scored twice in a 5-0 win at Eccleshill in the National League Under-19 Alliance, with Will McCamley also on the scoresheet.

The victory was secured in difficult circumstances after the young Mariners lost two of their back four to injuries within the first 10 minutes, with Harrison Devine and Tom Bexton both forced off.

A reshuffle saw Olly Scott moved to left-back and Arron Thompson into an unfamiliar central defence position, but he excelled and turned in a man of the match display.

Williams was pleased with the display against an Eccleshill side which was reduced to 10 players late on.

He said: “The first half was very competitive against a physically capable side, and there were no goals before half-time.

“Losing two of our backline in the first 10 minutes didn’t help, but Arron did superbly well at the back and was probably the best player on the pitch on the day.

“We were restricted to just a few half chances in the first half. The best of them was a free-kick from Max which hit the post.

“In the second half we showed a lot more character and Will McCamley scored early before we went on to control the game from there.

“We produced some real good play in the second half and deserved the victory.”

South Shields’ Jamie Williams has been recognised for his outstanding work with a regional award.

Jamie, the club’s head of youth performance and development, has been handed Durham FA’s Respect Award for the positive difference he has made in grassroots football.

The award was given to Jamie as a result of his work with the SSFC Foundation.

He has since moved on to concentrate fully on the club’s Academy, mainly focusing on the Future’s Academy run in conjunction with Mortimer Community College.

Jamie was modest after collecting his award.

He said: “We’ve done some really good things as a club over the last few years, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in it.

“We’ve been quite innovative with some of our ideas, and always put children at the centre of everything we do, which is very important.

“This is an award for the Foundation.

“I felt quite embarrassed to get it.

“There are a lot of very committed and talented volunteers and coaches involved in junior football across the country, and to be picked out is a strange feeling.

“If the FA had 1,000 of these awards to hand out, I’m sure they could find 1,000 deserving recipients.”

The FA teamed up with McDonald’s to launch the Grassroots Football Awards, aimed towards people who make a positive difference in the game and celebrating their fantastic work.

The awards aim to recognise those who represent the FA’s PRIDE values:

Progressive: Reaching for improvement and innovation

Respectful: Leading by example, inspiring positive behaviour in others

Inclusive: Uniting people of any age, ethnicity and from any background

Determination: Rising to and overcoming challenges

Excellent: Striving to make football the best it can be

Jamie joined South Shields in March 2017 and has become a pivotal part of the club.

He added: “I have introduced what I would class as common-sense practice delivered consistently.

“That starts with putting children at the centre of everything around decisions, and programmes designed around children.

“It’s children first, football second.

“It’s nice to win an award, but I’m genuinely pretty embarrassed and don’t feel any more deserving to have it than anyone else.”

Jamie – you’re too modest!

Thanks for your continued outstanding work and congratulations on your award.