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.”
It’s Day Four of the SSFC Advent Calendar – and you now have the chance to enter the competition to win a signed pair of Myles Boney’s gloves.
Today’s feature is kicked off by Joint Assistant Manager Jon Shaw, who delivers his message for supporters in the tweet below.
🎄 Welcome to Day 4⃣ of the #SSFCAdventCalendar, which is introduced by Jon Shaw.
Today is your last chance to enter our comp for a signed pair of Myles Boney's gloves, and a party grill courtesy of TGS.
— South Shields FC (@SouthShieldsFC) December 4, 2020
Between now and Christmas Eve, you will be able to enter a range of competitions to win prizes courtesy of the club and several of its sponsors.
The first item up for grabs is a signed pair of Myles Boney’s gloves. All four of the questions and details of how to enter the competition are available by clicking here.
Later on Friday, we will announce the winner of a party grill courtesy of club sponsor TGS Industrial Supplies.
The first of them is South Shields-based Cancer Connections, which is dedicated to serving individuals and families suffering from cancer and its after-effects. We fully appreciate that times are difficult at present and many will not be in a position to donate, but those who would like to can do so by clicking here.
Cancer Connections is a brilliant charity which is more relevant than ever during the pandemic. Although its drop-in centre is currently closed, staff can still be spoken to over the phone, with counselling, welfare benefits advice, information about cancer, family support and “someone to talk with who understands” all available by calling 0191 456 5081.
Over the month, donations will also be encouraged towards the club’s charitable Foundation, which works with hundreds of children each week and does such fantastic work within our community.
To support the Foundation with a donation, please click here.