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.

South Shields’ Academy players have enjoyed another largely positive week – with the highlight coming as they progressed in the ECFA League play-offs.

The young Mariners kicked off the week with a trip to Scarborough Athletic in the National League Under-19 Alliance on Monday.

There were plenty of positives to take from the game at Flamingo Land Stadium, but there was late disappointment for Shields as they fell to a 4-3 defeat.

Jon Shaw and Wess Brown took a team mainly made up of first-year Academy players to North Yorkshire and they had a slow start to the game, when it became evident it would be an open affair.

Scarborough struck the first goal of the afternoon but Shields battled back well, with strikes from Rob Ryland and Geoff Hearn putting them into a winning position.

The aim at the start of the second half for the Mariners was to continue where they left off at the end of the first 45 minutes, but they conceded an equaliser and a controversial penalty was then awarded against them when Lewis Black was adjudged to have handled in the box. Ethan Hodgson saved the spot-kick but was then ruled to have stepped off his line, resulting in a retake, when a different penalty taker converted to put Scarborough 3-2 in front.

Shields continued to dominate possession and equalised with five minutes remaining as Josh Elcoate notched a penalty before they pressed for a winner.

They looked set to find it when Jack Wilkinson was played in on goal but an apparent foul on the forward went unpunished and the Seadogs counter-attacked before scoring what proved to be the winner from a corner.

Head of Professional Development Jon Shaw said: “Although the result was disappointing, it wasn’t the be all and end all.

“There were a lot of real positives in the way the lads played, but they need to understand how to manage games and be a bit more ruthless when they have so much possession.

“The lads were unfortunate on the day.”

The Academy returned to action with two matches on Wednesday, which included a trip to Barnsley in the first play-off round of the ECFA League.

The young Mariners knew they were in for a difficult afternoon against a team which had won their league and they started slowly, whereas Barnsley looked sharp and dangerous, and caused Shields problems in the early stages.

Shields started to get to grips with the game and although they fell behind, they levelled things up before half-time when Will Jenkins brilliantly found Oscar Taylor and he made it 1-1.

The Mariners’ second half performance was much-improved and there were a number of impressive performances. Jamie Whitehead gave them the lead when he won and converted a penalty, and the victory was secured when Taylor notched his second in the closing stages to seal a 3-1 win.

In the National League Under-19 Youth Alliance, meanwhile, another youthful side impressively defeated Harrogate Town 5-2.

A difficult game was expected against a Harrogate side which won the reverse fixture 3-0.

First-team joint managers Lee Picton and Graham Fenton took charge of the team for the match and they oversaw a hugely positive performance.

A hat-trick from Hearn was added to by goals from Wilkinson and Joao Gomes as the three points were secured.

South Shields are bidding to book a place in the third round of the FA Youth Cup for the first time on Friday when they take on Hartlepool United at Mariners Park.

The winners of the tie will face the tantalising prospect of a trip to Fulham in round three, with Shields looking to go one better than last season, when they were beaten at this stage by Lincoln City.

The young Mariners have enjoyed another tremendous run in the competition, seeing off Gateshead, Carlisle City, North Shields, Harrogate Town and Morecambe so far.

They are now expecting their most difficult test yet with so much at stake. This match was originally due to be held last Friday, only to be postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.

Jon Shaw and Wess Brown’s side have performed admirably so far this season and are now hoping for another bumper crowd at Mariners Park for the youngsters’ biggest match to date.

Academy and Recruitment Manager Brown said: “From our perspective it is great to come up against a local Academy and we know quite a few of their players, so it makes for an interesting game.

“We believe this will be a pretty similar match to the one we experienced in the first round against Morecambe.

“We will continue to play the South Shields way and the lads are on a high at the moment, with some of them getting opportunities to train and play with the first-team, and the performances across both leagues and cup competitions having been good.

“We’ve watched a bit of Hartlepool and expect them to be less direct than Morecambe were.

“We also expect them to bring a decent following, and hopefully we will get another huge backing ourselves, which gives the lads the extra push they need sometimes.

“The value of that support was proved in the last round against Morecambe when the crowd really drove the players on to get the last minute winner.

“It just shows what a community club we are becoming when we can attract that amount of supporters to a youth team game.

“There are a lot of clubs playing further up the pyramid that can’t attract crowds like this to youth games so we are hugely appreciative of the support we receive.”

Striker Sam Hodgson is expected to captain Shields in Friday’s match.

Hodgson has scored 12 goals in 10 appearances across two seasons in the FA Youth Cup, and is raring to go.

He said: “We’re expecting a difficult game.

“We know quite a bit about each other already and I’m sure it will be an entertaining match for everyone who comes along.

“This is a great bunch of lads to be a part of and if I’m chosen to captain the side again, it will be an honour.

“It’s one of the best changing rooms I’ve been in and the togetherness is great between both the first years and the second years.

“If there’s ever a time we can tell someone is nervous someone is always there to put their arm around them and calm them down.

“At the end of the day, it’s just another game of football and that’s the way we’ve got to approach it.

“Because of the way things have worked out we know that the winner of tonight’s game will travel to Fulham in the next round, but we can’t get carried away by that.

“This match will be difficult enough and if we can get through it, that’s the time we’ll be able to think about Fulham.”

Kick-off at Mariners Park is at 7pm and admission prices are £3 for adults and £1 for concessions.