Who Are These Jobbers?
Households across Wearside are set to be divided on Thursday night as the region’s two powerhouse football teams come head-to-head.
Many supporters will be questioning who to root for. On the one hand you have Sunderland, a team that was eagerly jettisoned by the glory-seeking hordes during their recent demise, and then you have South Shields, the nouveau riche non-league side winning hearts across the North East.
As Sunderland toiled under the stewardship of David Moyes, Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman, certain fans thought this was too much and abandoned the Stadium of Light with the words “not watching that sh*te” ringing in the ears of anyone who would listen.
They had a destination in mind - it was Mariners Park.
They’d heard about this South Shields team that was walloping all before them. They were regularly winning games by five-goal margins and, even better, Julio Arca was playing for them. Why watch the team I have followed for years because they can’t string a pass together or fail to overcome foes like Bristol City and Brentford, when I could be watching “real football” with “passionate plaaaayas”?
Why, indeed. However, here they all are again, coming crawling back like a bird on its belly. Now that their beloved Julio has moved on to new pastures and Shields are no longer destroying literally everyone, the novelty is starting to wear thin. Some have also caught wind that Sunderland don’t lose every week and they have an owner that everybody loves, so here they are again, back in their droves.
Oh, they’ll be there in their half-and-half scarves telling everyone about the away days they had at *checks notes* Farsley Celtic and Mickleover Sports, as if they’re actual places. They’ll be asking if you’re going to Ipswich which they now have a sudden interest in and how Jack Ross bottled it in the play-off final. You’ll sigh, you’ll roll your eyes and you’ll be so happy the glorious boys in red and white are back.
For fans of former Sunderland players that never actually played for them, South Shields can boast Blair Adams among their ranks. So, yeah, cool, there’s that.
What’s The Ground Like?
As Sunderland supporters’ second home, many will already know their way around Mariners Park and will no doubt be nudging people out of the way to get their “usual spot”. Lovingly placed on the Bede Industrial Estate, it houses 3,000 fans when filled to the brim.
It is your standard non-league ground affair with a handful of seats in front of the clubhouse, while the rest is all terraced. Sunderland have their own designated away section but with an abundance of split loyalties, it may be hard to decipher where you’re meant to stand and who you’re meant to cheer for.
How Do I Get There?
We all know how to get to South Shields, don’t we?
No? Seriously? For the love of... sigh... okay.
If you’re driving, you can take either the A19 and take a right at the roundabout outside Simonside Primary School onto Leam then a left at the McDonald’s onto Shaftesbury Avenue to find the ground. Alternatively, take the A1018 through Cleadon, take a left onto Jarrow Road and a right at said McDonald’s.
Parking is available on Shaftesbury Avenue and the overflow car park at the nearby Barbour store. If somehow you get lost put NE32 3UP into your sat nav.
Mariners Park is a short walk from Bede Metro station. Take a Newcastle-bound service to Pelaw and hop on a South Shields Metro to Bede.
I know I probably don’t have to say this but here we are.
Where Can I Get The Sesh Started?
For those of a thirsty disposition, there is a small bar at the ground itself and a beer tent but options are few and far between around Mariners Park. You know what that means? It’s time to venture into the badlands of South Shields.
There are a handful of pubs around South Shields Metro station such as the homely Wetherspoons surrounding of The Wouldhave on Mile End Road. Enjoy a lovely view of the Tyne while slurping on a delicious real ale from Alum House on Ferry Street or The Steamboat on Mill Dam.
However, if you are one of those types craving a fancy craft beer then The Maltings Pub on Claypath Lane is ready with its 15 hand pulls.
I’m Staying Owa, Is There Owt To Do?
If you have the intention of staying over in South Shields, I can only assume that you live there. If not, first of all, what are you doing? And, secondly, just go to Sunderland.