Academy graduate Will Jenkins has committed his future to South Shields after signing his first senior contract with the club.

The exciting midfielder made a real impression during the 2019-20 season and scored a stunning goal on his first league start for the senior team in last December’s win over Radcliffe.

His ability, maturity and drive to succeed have impressed everyone at the club, as has his ability to deal with the added pressure of playing for the first-team.

Jenkins’ progression further underlines the clear pathways from the 16-19 Academy at Mariners Park.

He is the fourth Academy graduate to have signed a senior contract within the last year and he will enter the 2020-21 season with 12 senior appearances already to his name, along with two goals.

Jenkins – who turned 18 last month – said: “I’m delighted to have been rewarded for a good season with a contract at first-team level.

“My time in the Academy has helped me massively and I feel like I’ve progressed a lot over the last two years.

“Last season it was great to have the first-team captain Jon Shaw as my coach and Wess Brown has been a fantastic influence too.

“The Academy try to play in the same manner as the first-team and that helps a lot when you make that step up.

“I’m looking forward to trying to push on again next season and hope to become a regular.

“I’m also thankful to Graham Fenton and Lee Picton for the faith they are showing in me and the way they have helped and continue to help with the step up.”

Jenkins has been part of SSFC Academy since the summer of 2018 and was a star of last season’s historic run to the third round of the FA Youth Cup.

The young Mariners defeated the likes of Hartlepool United, Morecambe and Harrogate Town to reach round three for the first time in the club’s history, with Jenkins proving to be a constant goal threat.

He is now the second member of that team to have been rewarded for his progression with a senior contract after Sam Hodgson put pen to paper earlier this year.

Further announcements regarding the future of first-team players will be made over the next 24 hours.

South Shields players at first-team and Academy level have followed in the footsteps of supporters and club officials by donating to the Tickets To The Future initiative.

More than 500 season tickets for the 2020-21 campaign have now been snapped up after a surge in sales over recent days.

Over 80 of those are junior tickets which have been donated back to the club to distribute to deserving children ahead of the season, with the assistance of SSFC Foundation.

Club captain and Head of Professional Development Jon Shaw, centre-back Dillon Morse, goalkeeper Ross Coombe and teenage talents Will Jenkins and Sam Hodgson are among those to have donated tickets to the initiative.

Midfielder Nathan Lowe, meanwhile, donated a child AND adult season ticket, while Academy players Joe Lockey, Joe Ames, Aaron Steavens and Ben Errington all added tickets to the fund, as did Academy graduate Will McCamley, who is now with Huddersfield Town.

Jordan Hunter – who excelled on loan with the Mariners from Sunderland in the 2019-20 campaign – also provided two child season tickets.

He said: “I think everyone knows how much I loved the last season at the club.

“I donated because you can see how much the club means to the town and this initiative will help to get children through the gates who wouldn’t normally get the chance to, and gives them an opportunity to have that enjoyment on a Saturday afternoon.

“It has been great to see so many people get on board with it and hopefully it continues to go from strength to strength, and then next season those young fans can watch the team achieve the promotion we deserved to get this year.”

The Tickets To The Future initiative was kicked off by Shields supporter Jeff Bell, who lives in London. He purchased eight child season tickets for the 2020-21 campaign before donating them back to the club.

Jeff’s wish was for the tickets to be given to deserving children who would not usually have the opportunity to attend games at Mariners Park. The club has committed to working with SSFC Foundation to identify those children.

After Jeff’s generosity was publicised on social media, a host of other figures came forward to donate tickets.

Among them were club officials Bob and Viv Scott, Daniel Prince, Colin Docherty, Kev Wilson and Janet Davies.

One supporter, who wished to remain anonymous, donated 10 junior tickets on Friday and the total amount of donations is expected to exceed 100 in the coming days.

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

Those who would like to make a donation of either junior, concession or adult season tickets for the 2020-21 campaign – or indeed buy a season ticket for themselves – can do so in one of two ways.

Please call 0191 454 7800 between 9am and 5pm on weekdays to buy and donate over the phone, or click here to buy online. If you buy online and would like to donate your ticket(s), please follow up your purchase by sending an email signalling your intention to do so to info@southshieldsfc.co.uk.

Thank you for the continued outstanding support and we hope you and your family are staying safe and healthy.

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.