South Shields away? In the words of Mr Meeseeks “ooh wee can do!”. I’ve got my customary pre-season half bottle of Buckfast at the ready and we’re good to go for the Thursday night session. Yaldi!
As for the team on the pitch, tonight’s game is evidently all about fitness, but rest assured - Jack Ross’ team will want to show the gulf in class in front of the 3000 spectators and come out with a convincing win.
State of play...
I see you there, all worried about the lack of signings and that takeover that now doesn’t seem to be happening. That’s you, crying out “just buy Marcus Maddison” as you Photoshop ‘his’ car arriving at the Stadium of Light, as another scroll of your Twitter feed turns to tumbleweed and another League One team sign the next big thing from Morecambe.
But it’s not all that bad, is it? Come on now.
State of play? Pah. Fear not brethren, we still have weeks of pre-season to go before we have to worry about league position! That’s three weeks of no game really mattering from a results perspective. “It’s all about fitness” - yeah, force that cliche into my veins via a Buckfast drip and feed me the cheap pints at Mariners Park.
Charlie Wyke, I’m coming for ye hen!
Jack Ross Says...
We reflected on last season and why we fell short in losing the play-off final and missing out on promotion, and one of the factors was that we didn’t keep enough clean sheets.
That’s as a whole team and as a whole group, and there’s different factors for that, not just individual performances.
We know that we have to defend better as a team this season, whether that’s strengthening the personnel or changing the way we play.
In the summer we spent a lot of time looking at the attributes that we were maybe missing in the squad as well.
So as much as strengthening positions, Conor McLaughlin being an obvious one because we lost Adam Matthews, we’ve looked at increasing the strength and pace we had in our squad.
We’ve got some good footballers but those two attributes are necessary I think not just in League One but throughout modern football.
We’ve tried to do that, we’re still trying to do that and it’s a key factor in what we do in the coming weeks until the end of August as well.
As is the custom in a team’s opening pre-season fixture, there’s likely to be eleven changes made at half-time and it’s anyone’s guess as to how the team will line-up.
Aiden McGeady returned to training this week following an extended break to recover from his foot injury sustained at the end of last season. He’s been given extra time to recover and will likely not feature at Mariner’s Park. Jon McLaughlin and Tom Flanagan are unlikely to feature as they were also given extra time off due to their participation in international fixtures fixtures following our play-off final defeat, and Max Power is still struggling with injury so won’t feature. Lee Burge and highly-rated youth goalkeeper Anthony Patterson are likely to get forty-five minutes each.
Aside from that, we have a full squad to choose from and Ross will also look to give run outs to under 23 players Bali Mumba, Benji Kimpioka and Jack Diamond.
View from the opposition...
South Shields faced similar heartbreak to ourselves last season, narrowly missing out on a fourth consecutive promotion on the final day.
It’s been over two months since The Mariners last played a fixture, with their season ending on May 4th as is custom in the EVO-STIK Premier and similar divisions - so whilst we may feel the new season has came around quickly, Shields fans are gagging for ninety minutes of footie.
It was a disappointing end to the campaign for South Shields, as their promotion hopes ended on the final day, losing at home 2-1 to Warrington, with Farsley Celtic winning the title and moving up a division, but joint managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton are hopeful that their first set back in a remarkable few years will stand them in good stead this season as they search to go one better this coming season.
Thursday’s game is Shields’ first pre-season friendly, with former Academy graduate Blair Adams likely to start the game alongside former Gateshead players Phil Turnbull, Jon Shaw and Josh Gillies.
Last Time We Met
Well...this took some finding, but if our research is correct, we last faced the club known as South Shields FC (1936) during World War II, all the way back on 22nd March 1940 to be exact, in a friendly match that was played at Horsley Hill.
6700 spectators took in a 8-2 win for the Lads, with the likes of Raich Carter and Bobby Gurney lining up for us.