Vice-captain Robert Briggs has reiterated his desire to win a fourth promotion with South Shields after extending his second spell with the club into a sixth season.
Briggs is Shields’ longest-serving player, having rejoined from Spennymoor Town when the Mariners were a Northern League Division Two side in August 2015.
Over the last five years he has helped the club achieve three promotions and win six trophies, but the hurt of the last two campaigns has left him more motivated than ever.
Shields finished second in the Premier Division of the Northern Premier League in 2018-19 before losing to Warrington Town in the play-offs, and were 12 points clear at the top of the league when the 2019-20 season was curtailed early and the decision was made to null and void the campaign. That decision continues to be challenged but as things stand, Shields are due to face a third season in the Northern Premier League Premier Division.
Briggs – who last season passed the milestone of 250 appearances for the Mariners – has explained his decision to extend his stay at Mariners Park.
He said: “It’s a mixture of a lot of things, including a lot of loyalty to the club.
“I’ve been here for five years in this spell and another year when I was younger, and I wouldn’t have been able to just walk away after what has just happened.
“We were 12 points clear and I’m convinced we were going to win the league, and there was the disappointment of the play-offs last year as well.
“Winning promotion from this league is a massive motivation for me and I don’t feel like I could choose to walk away until we’ve done it.
“I don’t want to leave until the club is in a position I can’t follow it to, for example if they go full-time with no part-time players.
“I want to stay as long as I can and help the club as high up the pyramid as I can.”
Briggs has thoroughly enjoyed the last five years with the Mariners, despite the disappointing way the most recent two seasons ended.
He credits the players he has worked alongside for the tremendous team spirit which has been fostered throughout that time, as well as the coaches he has played under during that time – including joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton.
As he explains, it has “always felt right” for him at Mariners Park.
Briggs added: “When you join a club you have to get used to the surroundings, the pitch, the staff and so many other things, and for whatever reason sometimes it doesn’t work out.
“It has always felt right for me at South Shields.
“I’ve always had good relationships with the players, the management team and the other staff at the club, as well as the fans.
“They’ve been great with me since I started.
“The club is also local to me which is a real bonus, and a lot of my friends come to the games.
“It feels like you’re part of a big community.”
Briggs was a key part of Shields’ quadruple-winning season of 2016-17, which culminated in victory over Cleethorpes Town in the final of the FA Vase at Wembley.
Looking back at that Wembley experience provides mixed emotions for the midfielder, who came on as a second half substitute in Shields’ 4-0 win.
He said: “I had played pretty much every minute of every game in the Vase leading up to the final and wasn’t selected in the starting line-up at Wembley.
“When I was told I wasn’t starting I was devastated.
“I desperately wanted to play but when I look back now, I have a bit of a different view.
“When I came on, 13,000 to 15,000 South Shields fans cheered me onto the pitch and that was a great feeling. I wouldn’t have had that if I started.
“I got a really good ovation when I came on at 1-0 and then I set up the second goal.
“I still look back on it with sadness that I didn’t start because I believe I deserved to start but it’s a team game and I had to do my bit from the sidelines in the first half and then on the pitch in the second half.”
Briggs is now a manager in his day job and understands the difficulty Picton and Fenton face when tasked with selecting a team and a squad, week-in week-out.
He admits he is undecided on a potential future in football management for himself, although at the age of 28 he believes he has plenty to look forward to on the pitch yet.
He added: “I want to play for as long as possible.
“I want to set records and I want people to remember the fact I was part of the whole journey here.
“Julio Arca gets a lot of praise and rightly so for what he did here.
“I want to leave something like he did, and the longer I stay the better that’s going to be.
“It’s not just about making so many appearances, it’s about being part of a successful team in those games.
“I want to be playing those games and winning things.
“I want to set the bar up there for someone to come and break, which they probably will.”
Briggs admits that the recent enforced break has helped him to appreciate football more, and he is raring to go when it is safe to do so.
He said: “I can’t wait to get back.
“We have a WhatsApp group and keep in touch on there, and the lads are all saying they hope this and that happens.
“There’s a lot of excitement about returning to football when it’s safe.
“We all miss football and are raring to go.
“We’re also a big part of each other’s lives because we see each other so often. They’re good friends and it will be great to catch up with them when we can.”
South Shields FC can now confirm its list of retained players following the premature conclusion to the 2019-20 season.
A total of 18 senior players are currently under contract for the 2020-21 season after a number of new deals were signed, and it is hoped that number will rise in the coming days and potentially weeks.
The following senior players were already under contract for the 2020-21 campaign prior to the conclusion of last season and remain so: Blair Adams, Dillon Morse, Nathan Lowe, Callum Ross, Sam Hodgson, Darius Osei.
The following players have signed new deals or will remain at Mariners Park after the option to extend their current contract was invoked: Ross Coombe, Craig Baxter, Gary Brown, Jon Shaw, Robert Briggs, Luke Daly, Josh Gillies, Will Jenkins, Arron Thompson, Phil Turnbull, Wouter Verstraaten, Jason Gilchrist.
The club remains in discussions with Lee Mason about an extension to his contract and the outcome of those talks will be communicated as soon as possible.
Myles Boney, Jordan Hunter and Bali Mumba were all on loan with South Shields when the coronavirus pandemic forced an early end to the 2019-20 season. Those loan deals have now expired and the club is not currently in a position to discuss the future of any of those players, all of whom impressed greatly during their time here. We will communicate further in due course but take this opportunity to thank all three for their tremendous professionalism and contribution in 2019-20.
The following players have been released following the expiration of their contracts: Kieran Charlton, George Lindo, Callum Guy, Millenic Alli, Sefton Gonzales.
Kieran and George both joined the club’s Academy ahead of last season and Kieran went on to make an impression at first-team level in 14 appearances.
Callum departs after a three-year spell at Mariners Park which has included 15 senior appearances and three goals. He is another graduate of the club’s Academy and was part of the side which won national silverware in 2019 in the Northern League Under-19 Alliance League Cup.
Millenic made 13 appearances after signing for Shields last summer while Sefton – a December 2019 arrival – scored five goals in 13 appearances and provided a real standout moment in January’s win over Mickleover Sports with a vital goal scored with an overhead kick, before following that with a backflip in celebration.
We would like to place on record our sincere thanks to all players who are leaving us ahead of the 2020-21 season. We wish each of them all the very best for their future.
We hope all players, staff, volunteers, sponsors and of course supporters are continuing to stay safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.
Wouter Verstraaten has told of his delight after putting pen to paper on a new contract at South Shields.
The Dutchman made 14 appearances for the Mariners last season after joining from Consett in January.
The PSV Eindhoven Academy graduate impressed in a number of roles and attracted the attention of a number of clubs higher up the football pyramid, but has opted to commit his future to Shields after extensive discussions.
Verstraaten said: “I am very happy to have signed this deal, as it took a while before we finally got it done.
“I am very pleased that South Shields have shown their confidence in me during these unprecedented times.
“Ever since I joined the team in January, I have felt the professionalism and will to win this league.
“That this didn’t happen last season was obviously a very disappointing moment for the whole club, but I feel that we are very motivated to make things right next season.
“That is one of the many reasons I have signed with South Shields.”
The coronavirus pandemic has meant that the Shields squad has not been together since the memorable 5-3 victory over FC United of Manchester on March 14th.
Motivation among the players remains high, though, and Verstraaten is eagerly awaiting the day football returns and he can play in front of the Mariners Park faithful again.
He added: “I feel that it is the right place for me to grow as a player and improve in areas that will help me perform to a higher level.
“It is a pleasure to play in front of such a big crowd every week. There are not many places where the stage is set every weekend like it is at South Shields.
“I’m currently back in the Netherlands staying fit and spending some time with my family and I’m in regular contact with the management, but we just have to wait to see when the Government allows us to get back together.”
The club’s full retained list following the completion of the 2019-20 season will be announced on Tuesday morning.