The eagerly-awaited South Shields FC International Tournament gets underway on Friday as Celtic take on Marseille at Mariners Park.
Top football talent from across Europe is set to descend on South Tyneside for the three-day event, with Southampton and South Shields the other two participants.
Tickets for all games across the weekend are still available, although three-day tickets are only available until 12pm on Friday by clicking here.
Hosts South Shields will get their first taste of the tournament when they face Southampton at 3pm on Saturday, before things are brought to a close on Sunday with a third-place play-off at 1pm and final at 5pm. Friday’s Celtic against Marseille fixture kicks off at 7.30pm.
Celtic, Marseille and Southampton are bringing their Under-23s teams to Mariners Park for the competition.
Mariners joint manager Lee Picton says his side are relishing the prospect of coming up against top young talent over the weekend.
He said: “There is real anticipation and excitement at the prospect of three top football clubs coming to Mariners Park.
“We’re going to have to mix and match a little bit across the weekend, because to play two games in two days, we’re going to have to have more than 11 or even 16 players who can do a job for us.
“That will give more opportunities to some of the young players.
“It could be a fantastic experience for the lads we’ve worked with in the academy to rub shoulders and pit their wits against the likes of Southampton, Celtic and Marseille.
“We’re really looking forward to it.”
Tickets for all games will be available to buy at the turnstiles and in advance online.
Friday and Saturday’s matches are priced at £10 for adults, £8 for over-65s and students, and £3 for under-16s, while a ticket to watch both of Sunday’s games costs £15 for adults, £12 for over-65s and students, and £5 for under-16s.
Southampton’s team will be managed by former Tunisian international defender Radhi Jaidi, who also played for the likes of Bolton Wanderers and Birmingham City.
Among those in the squad is Jake Hesketh, who made his Premier League debut for the Saints in 2014.
Ex-Celtic, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa forward Shaun Maloney is among Celtic’s coaching staff for the weekend.
Included in the squad is 18-year-old Jack Aitchison, who became Celtic’s youngest-ever player and goalscorer in May 2016 when he netted with his first touch for the senior side against Motherwell, aged 16 years and 71 days.
South Shields will take on Consett and Tadcaster Albion as part of their preparations for the 2018-19 Evo-Stik Premier Division season.
Friendlies against Blyth Spartans and Cleethorpes Town, as well as the club’s participation in the South Shields FC International Tournament with Celtic, Marseille and Southampton’s Under-23 sides, were announced earlier this month.
The club can now confirm that its pre-season schedule will begin with a home fixture against Northern League outfit Consett on Friday, July 13.
The clubs struck up a friendship over many years of competition in the Northern League, and last met in April 2017, when Shields won 1-0 at Mariners Park on their way to winning the league title.
A trip to Tadcaster Albion, who the Mariners came up against in the 2017-18 Evo-Stik North Division campaign, has also been added to the pre-season programme.
Shields will visit the i2i Stadium on Saturday, August 4 in what is due to be their penultimate friendly of the summer.
An additional pre-season game is expected to be announced soon, and it is due to take place on Tuesday, July 24 at Mariners Park.
Here is the club’s pre-season schedule so far:
Friday, July 13: Consett (H)
Saturday, July 21: Blyth Spartans (H)
Tuesday, July 24: TBC (H)
Saturday, July 28: Southampton Under-23s (H) – South Shields FC International Tournament (PURCHASE TICKETS BY CLICKING HERE)
Sunday, July 29: Celtic Under-23s or Marseille Under-23s (H) – South Shields FC International Tournament (PURCHASE TICKETS BY CLICKING HERE)
Saturday, August 4: Tadcaster Albion (A)
Saturday, August 11: Cleethorpes Town (A)
Celtic, Olympique de Marseille and Southampton will provide the glittering opposition in a prestigious friendly tournament at Mariners Park this summer.
The four-team competition, which also includes host club South Shields, will be held between Friday, July 27 and Sunday, July 29.
In a huge coup, three of the most recognisable clubs in European football will be visiting Mariners Park.
The South Shields FC International Tournament will get underway on July 27, when Scottish giants Celtic take on French side Marseille in a 7.30pm kick-off.
South Shields will pit their wits against Southampton at 3pm the following day, before the tournament draws to a close with a third place play-off at 1pm on July 29, and a final at 5pm the same day.
South Shields FC Chairman Geoff Thompson said: “We are delighted to reveal details of the South Shields FC International Tournament.
“To attract clubs of the size of Celtic, Marseille and Southampton to Mariners Park is a massive coup for the club and I’m sure it will generate a lot of excitement with our supporters.
“It promises to be a festival of football as we make new friends from clubs we would once never have even dreamt of coming up against.
“We also look forward to welcoming supporters of each of the three clubs to Mariners Park, where there is sure to be a friendly atmosphere which all of the family will enjoy.
“It’s not every day that clubs of this stature come to Mariners Park so we’re sure our own fans will also make the most of it.
“We’re confident it will a memorable weekend for all connected with the club.”
Celtic, Marseille and Southampton will each be bringing their Under-23s side to participate in the tournament.
South Shields FC Joint Manager Lee Picton said: “The tournament at Mariners Park will provide a really high level of tactical and physical test for the squad, which will be vital in order to prepare us for the challenges that lie ahead next season.
“We will be looking at quite a high number of new players within our squad and it will be really interesting for myself and Graham (Fenton) to see how they, along with our returning players of course, deal with those challenges.”
Tickets for the matches on the Friday and Saturday will cost £10 for adults, £8 for concessions and £3 for under-16s.
Family tickets – which will admit two adults and two under-16s – for each of those days will be priced at £22.
Tickets for the final day of the tournament, which will gain supporters entry to both the third place play-off and final, will be £15 for adults, £12 for concessions and £5 for under-16s.
A family ticket for the Sunday – again admitting two adults and two under-16s – will cost £33.
A weekend ticket, which will provide access to all four matches across the three days, will be available at a cost of £30 for adults, £24 for concessions and £9 for under-16s.
Details on how to buy tickets will be announced soon.
Anyone interested in booking hospitality or sponsorship for the tournament can contact South Shields FC Commercial Director David Mitchell via email at david.mitchell@southshieldsfc.
As well as the tournament, the club is pleased to confirm two more friendlies which will be held this summer.
Blyth Spartans will visit Mariners Park for a 3pm kick-off on Saturday, July 21, while Shields are away to Cleethorpes Town on Saturday, August 11.
Further fixtures will be announced in due course.