South Shields will host Guisborough Town in the preliminary round of the FA Youth Cup.
The draw for the early rounds of the competition was made on Friday lunchtime, and the winner of the aforementioned tie will be at home to Pickering Town or Penrith in first round qualifying.
The date of the Guisborough fixture is yet to be confirmed, although it is due to be played during the week commencing Monday, August 30th.
Shields have made quite an impression in the FA Youth Cup in recent seasons, particularly in 2018-19 and 2019-20, when they reached the second and third rounds respectively. Last season, they made it to third round qualifying.
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.
A smile is never far from the face of Joao Gomes – and the teenager has had plenty of reasons to grin from ear to ear this week.
Having worked tirelessly to impress during a two-year spell in South Shields’ Academy, the attacking midfielder has signed his first senior contract with the club and been promoted to the first-team squad.
He could be forgiven for basking in the achievement he has strived so hard for over the last two years, but behind that smile is a steely determination to make another significant jump.
Gomes is not about to step into the trap of believing signing a senior contract means he has made it. As he explains, he is only just getting started.
“The hard work starts now,” the 18-year-old said. “I’ve not got a first-team place just because I’ve signed this contract.
“I know I have to prove I belong here and I really want to earn those opportunities with the first-team, but I’m a confident guy when it comes to football.
“If you don’t believe in yourself it won’t work out for you so you can’t allow yourself to have any doubts.
“You have to trust your ability and make sure you always show what you’re made of.”
He has certainly done that since joining the club.
Gomes was an integral part of the side which progressed further than any previous Shields team in the FA Youth Cup in 2019-20, reaching the third round before a defeat to a supremely talented Fulham outfit.
He scored four goals along the way – including a dramatic late winner against Morecambe and a blockbuster from long range in a comfortable victory over Harrogate Town – and impressed with his ability on the ball, work-rate and desire.
It was quite an introduction to life at 1st Cloud Arena for Gomes, who grew up in Portuguese capital Lisbon before moving to the North East of England, where he was initially part of Newcastle Benfield’s set-up.
Adapting to a new country and way of life was difficult, but Gomes’ love of the beautiful game undoubtedly proved a welcome distraction.
He added: “That was a big step for me, coming to a new country and having to learn a new language and culture.
“I’m 18 now and feel really comfortable here.
“Football has played such a huge part in helping me settle in this country and learn the language.
“I feel much more comfortable on the pitch because of it because I can express myself and be myself.”
But just what was the most difficult aspect of North East life for Gomes to adapt to?
“For me, the toughest thing to get used to here was the accent,” Gomes said, laughing. “I couldn’t really understand it at first because people talk very fast, but I’m better with it now.
“The weather was also difficult to adapt to at the beginning because you never know whether it’s going to be hot or cold.”
Gomes was spotted while playing for Newcastle Benfield in a game in which he scored a headed goal – something he jokingly admits is a rarity in his game.
You are far more likely to see him taking on defenders, providing for team-mates and demonstrating his eye for goal with his feet, but that header and his all-round performance earned him an opportunity at Shields which he quickly grasped.
Having taken up the game at the age of 12, Gomes was a relatively late developer but his progression during his time in Shields’ Academy has been notable.
It earned him trial periods at multiple clubs but the teenager has opted to commit his future to the Mariners by signing a two-year deal.
The path from Academy to first-team has been a well-trodden one over recent years, and Gomes has plenty of inspiration among his new senior team-mates as he bids to make his mark.
He said: “My team-mates have been brilliant with me since I came here, especially Sam Hodgson and Will Jenkins.
“I look up to them a lot as they both made the step from the Academy to the first-team and are doing really well.
“I’m trying to emulate what they’ve done and they set the example in terms of the amount of work you have to put in.”
Gomes’ time in the Academy had plenty of highlights, with his role in the FA Youth Cup run of two seasons ago undoubtedly at the top of the list.
He added: “There have been lots of challenges to overcome over the last two years and I worked very hard during my time in the Academy, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it here so far.
“I feel like I’ve matured a lot and progressed well as a player, so I have to keep that going.
“The experience I had in the Youth Cup two seasons ago, and playing in front of the brilliant fans so many times, really helped my development and I want to play in front of that sort of atmosphere all the time now.”
First-team manager Graham Fenton is enthused to have secured Gomes’ services for the next two seasons and has described the teenager as an “exciting prospect”.
But what should those fans who have not yet seen him play expect? The final word goes to Gomes himself.
“I’m a player who likes to provide and score goals, and express myself on the pitch,” he said. “I like to go on one-v-ones and entertain the fans.
“Now I need to earn the opportunity to go out there every week and do that.
“As I said, the hard work has just begun.”