Jon Shaw has extended his playing stint with South Shields into a sixth season after signing a new one-year contract with an option for a further 12 months.
Shaw will combine his playing duties with his role as joint assistant manager in 2021-22 after becoming part of Graham Fenton’s backroom staff in November 2020.
The experienced campaigner has made 183 appearances for the Mariners since joining in the summer of 2016 and has previously spoken of his desire to play until the age of 40.
He will turn 38 in November but the former Gateshead, Luton Town and Burton Albion man is determined to demonstrate there is plenty of life in his playing career yet.
Shaw said: “I’m really happy to have signed another extension to my playing contract at the club. As everyone knows, I have no desire to stop playing anytime soon.
“With the continued improvements to the squad, the ground and the club, we have a big year in front of us and I can’t wait to be a part of that on the pitch as much as I am off it.
“I read a piece with Graeme Armstrong recently who said that a lot of players had been robbed of the final year or so of their careers because of the Covid situation.
“A lot of people hung their boots up after such a tough year of mainly not playing but that article with Graeme really motivated me personally.
“I want what has happened to actually go the other way for me and prolong my career, because I haven’t had to put in the hard yards on the pitch as much and my body is fully prepared to go again.
“I worked really hard during lockdown to stay fit and if anything get even fitter and stronger. I feel ready to go.”
Shaw is joined in Fenton’s backroom team by fellow joint assistant manager Brian Smith, goalkeeping coach Phil Naisbett and physiotherapist Andrew Morris.
He admits combining playing with coaching presents different challenges and a new perspective, but he is raring to go heading into the new campaign and has praised his team-mates for their efforts in pre-season so far.
Shaw added: “It’s a very strange dynamic for me because I’ve been in coaching for almost eight years but I’ve never coached the same set of players I’m playing alongside.
“Having everything just focused with our first-team is fantastic.
“I’m really enjoying working with Graham, Brian, Andy and Phil and the lads have been fantastic in buying into everything we’re doing.”
After five years at South Shields, defender Jon Shaw has taken up a new role with the club as assistant manager.
The veteran has been in the game since 2003, beginning his playing career at his boyhood club, Sheffield Wednesday.
Since then Shaw has played for a multitude of teams up and down the football pyramid and is hoping to draw on his experiences in his new position.
One aspect of this is the changing face of non-league football, and how this area of the game is moving away from stereotypes of pub footballers, endless long balls being lumped up the pitch and big Dave at the back doling out leg-breaking tackles.
Shaw said that his introduction to this football as a player had this general feel and standard similar to the horror stories that circled the non-league circuit, but this stigma is slowly changing.
“The level of football lower down the pyramid is getting better,” he explained. “The difference between League Two, National League and National League North is now really small.
“The best part about non-league football is that it’s going up, the standard of play, the standard of care, the standard of fitness, the standard of sports fitness.
“All of those things at the top of the game will inevitably just drip into non-league football.”
Shaw believes that this changing landscape of non-league football has allowed it to become a better arena for young players to come and learn their craft.
He added: “If you can find a club – and these clubs are popping up more and more – with a standard of playing and an identity of what they do, then you can get younger players into these levels and expose them when they’re ready for this development.”
As well as the standard of football, another area that is starting to shift is the science behind the football, something which Shaw has noticed in recent years.
“We brought in a sports science coach and he did some freelance stuff and at this level, it’s about education, making sure that the lads are aware of what they can and can’t do.
“We give players information and if they need our help, they can have it and if they want to use the sports scientists, they can and he’ll give us some information.
“The lower you go down the pyramid, you have to get players to take ownership of their own fitness, their own bodies, their own diets.
“We’ve got some great lads and they try and gain the 1%s and 2%s that they can.”
One key area of development at South Shields is the academy system, which has been up and running for the past four years and is something that Shaw is particularly proud of.
A big part of his ethos is his faith in South Shields’ academy system, and he says it would be “daft” to ignore it.
Shaw said: “Our academy is designed for exactly what it says on the tin. It’s about developing players and giving young lads in our region the best opportunity to get into our first-team.
“It’s about the opportunity to become a better person and a better person in what you do.”
Robert Briggs has been appointed as South Shields’ captain.
The midfielder takes the armband from Jon Shaw, who will continue as a key member of the playing squad but has passed on his captaincy responsibilities after taking the role of joint assistant manager. Blair Adams has been named vice-captain.
Briggs is the longest-serving player in the Mariners’ squad, having made 279 appearances across two spells at the club.
The 28-year-old’s current stint began in August 2015 and he has since been part of three promotion campaigns and six trophy wins.
As Shields prepare to kick-off a new era under the sole management of Graham Fenton, with Shaw and Brian Smith his assistants, Briggs has told of his pride after being entrusted with the armband.
He said: “I’m delighted to have been offered the chance to become captain of the club.
“It’s a great honour for me and there have been some incredible captains in the past, including Leepaul Scroggins, Barrie Smith, Julio Arca and Shawsy.
“I appreciate the faith shown in me by Graham, Jon and Bri, and my aim doesn’t change because I’m now captain.
“Everything is still the same in the sense of trying to be successful at the club and getting the club as far up the football pyramid as possible.
“It’s great to have Blair as vice-captain as well because he is a tremendous player and a big part of the dressing room.
“Again, for me and him the goals don’t change.
“Winning every game we play in is the target.”
Joint assistant manager Jon Shaw said: “After a conversation with Fents and Bri, we’ve decided that with my new added responsibilities as joint assistant manager it’s the right time to pass over the captain’s armband.
“The natural progression from vice-captain and the right man for the job is Briggsy.
“He already acts like a leader in the changing room, on the training pitch and on game day with his performances.
“I’ll be proud to follow him out of the tunnel and I’m sure the lads will be happy with him leading them, which he has done so well on many occasions already.”
Vice-captain Blair Adams said: “I’m proud to have been named vice-captain and it has made me even more excited for the season to be back up and running.
“The squad is ready to go and we are determined to make this a successful season.”