Along with its several reformations over the course of the last century, South Shields FC has experienced a somewhat nomadic existence in respect of its home grounds, inevitably and invariably as a result of politics and circumstance. Since 1992 the home of the club has been Filtrona Park, situated in the west of the borough on the Bede Industrial Estate next to the Tyne & Wear metro station of the same name. Its facilities are generally rated amongst the best in the STL Northern League. This ground was originally built some 40 years ago as a sports and social club for the employees of Filtrona Ltd, an Anglo-American cigarette filter manufacturing corporation which had at that time a workforce of 2,000 plus and a football team, Filtrona FC, operating in one of the local district leagues. Since the reformation of South Shields FC in 1974 – the former club, a founder member of the Northern Premier League in 1968 moved lock, stock and barrel from its Simonside Hall ground to Gateshead to become Gateshead United – the new club had played at the council-owned Jack Clark Park, first in the Northern Alliance and then in the Wearside League. The lack of facilities at the ground prevented the club from gaining promotion to the Northern League, until it purchased the disused and thoroughly vandalised Filtrona Park, the previous tenants having folded and the social club closed through lack of use. The ground was extensively altered with the addition of new dressing rooms and offices in place of the existing sports hall and gymnasium, a new 150-seater stand with the same amount of terracing at the front, floodlights and perimeter fencing. The main building was extended to include two function rooms, bringing in extra revenue.
In 1996 the ground improvements made it possible for the club to be promoted into the Northern League at long last. Our record attendance had been set four years earlier when a fine 1,500 crowd saw us lift the Sunderland Shipowners Cup against Hartlepool Town. The current capacity is approximately 2,000, but long-term aspirations of a return to the Northern Premier (now called the Evo-Stik) would require the building of a second stand. The club is now an established member of the STL Northern League First Division, and has an active Supporters Association with some 250 members. Next season will hopefully see the formation of a reserve team and a junior structure to include teams at all age levels.
On Northern League Day we welcome Stokesley to Filtrona for what will no doubt be an entertaining encounter. Both sides require three points, the home team in their quest to better last season’s league placing and the visitors to stay out of the relegation zone. Stokesley were promoted last season as Division 2 champions, but it’s been an inconsistent season for a side that includes several ex-Middlesbrough Academy players and even a Turkish U21 international.
In my own opinion, this season has also been disappointingly inconsistent for the home side, though it must be said that things have not been helped by the unavailability through injury and suspension of several key players. Although there has been no silverware to follow last season’s League Cup win, the team as a whole is stronger than last year, which bodes well for the future.
SSFC at home: P16, W8, D2, L6, F34, A 23, total GD + 2, points 54, current position 11th.
SFC away: P16, W4, D2, L10, F22, A44, total GD -27, points 35, current position 18th.
South Shields have lost ex-Hartlepool United keeper Simon Parkin to a dislocated shoulder and seen influential defender Paul Stoneman leave to manage West Allotment Celtic. Captain Lee-Paul Scroggins has groin problems and forward Stephen Ramsay a hip strain. On the plus side, the return of Tony Coe and Chris Winn from injury and the encouraging form of forwards Burnell and Ryan provide grounds for optimism that Shields, with a recent win at second-placed Shildon, can end the season with a flourish.
All of us at South Shields hope that Northern League Day will be celebrated in style and go on to become an annual event in the local calendar.
Many thanks to Mariners fan Bob Wray for writing this piece. In one of the previous incarnations Bob refers to, South Shields played in the Football League itself between 1919 and 1930, selling their England international full-back Warney Cresswell to Sunderland in 1922 for the then world record transfer fee of £5,000. In 1926 they reached the fifth round of the FA Cup, losing at Bolton Wanderers after defeating Birmingham City 2-1 in the previous round. The following season 24,000 people saw them hold Swansea to a 2-2 draw in the same round, having already disposed of Sheffield Wednesday and Plymouth Argyle.