South Shields FC can confirm that Wouter Verstraaten has left the club to concentrate on his career outside of football.

The Dutchman arrived from Consett in January 2020 and made 24 competitive appearances for the Mariners across two pandemic-affected seasons.

The 25-year-old completed a Master’s degree in finance management during his time at the club and has now opted to return to the Netherlands to focus on his next steps off the field.

Wouter was a pleasure to work alongside from the moment he joined the club and will be greatly missed by all of his colleagues and friends at 1st Cloud Arena.

We would like to thank him for his efforts and wholeheartedly wish him the best for the future.

Manager Graham Fenton said: “The mutual decision to part ways with Wouter was a difficult one because he has been such a pleasure to work with.

“We had a chat with him a couple of weeks ago to discuss his place in the squad and after that, Wouter had a think about what he wanted to do and decided he wasn’t prepared to be a squad player this season, which we fully respect.

“He has decided he would like to go back to the Netherlands to pursue his career in finance alongside playing local football there.

“Wouter has been a fantastic person to be around during his time with us and we wish him all the best, not only in his football but in his career, which we know he will be successful in due to the character he has.

“We hope it will not be too long until we find a direct replacement for Wouter within the squad and will keep supporters informed.”

Welcome to the 14th day of December, which also sees the 14th installment of our SSFC Advent Calendar feature.

Throughout the first 24 days of the month we will attempt to spread a bit of festive cheer, and today’s feature is kicked off by Wouter Verstraaten, whose message for fans can be viewed via the tweet below.

Over the first 24 days of December, you will be able to enter a range of competitions to win prizes courtesy of the club and several of its sponsors.

The latest item up for grabs is a South Shields FC mascot package.

To enter this competition, supporters must wait until four questions have been asked, with the fourth to be published on Wednesday. Supporters will have until 9am the following day to submit all of their four answers together via email to info@southshieldsfc.co.uk.

The first question, asked by Ross Coombe yesterday, was: Ross Coombe made his league debut for Shields against Radcliffe last December. What was the final score that day?

Today’s question is: Which famous Dutch club did Wouter Verstraaten spend most of his junior football days with?

Remember, don’t submit your answers until the fourth question has been published on Wednesday.

We are today launching another competition in partnership with our sponsor Barbour.

Up for grabs is a Women’s Mullein or Men’s Penton Quilted Jacket, and to enter the competition you must do one of the following by 1pm on Wednesday…

TO ENTER VIA TWITTER:

1. Like and retweet the below tweet

2. Make sure you are following the following accounts on Twitter: @SouthShieldsFC, @SSFCFoundation, @SSFCAcademy, @Barbour

TO ENTER VIA FACEBOOK:

1. Like, share and tag three of your friends on the competition posted on the South Shields FC Facebook page on Monday morning.

2. Make sure you like the following pages on Facebook: South Shields FC, SSFC Foundation, Barbour

We would like to thank Barbour for their continued support.

We are also now highlighting our fourth charity of the month, the Customs House.

The Customs House is synonymous with South Shields as the breeding ground of some of the area’s brightest entertainment talent, and offers entertainment to all.

To find out more about the Customs House, click here. To donate financially, click here.

Over the month, donations will also be encouraged towards the club’s charitable Foundation, which works with hundreds of children each week and does such fantastic work within our community.

To support the Foundation with a donation, please click here.

Thank you for your continued support and keep an eye out for Day Fifteen tomorrow!

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.