It has now been over 130 years since the first recorded appearance of a named South Shields Football Club.
A team from the town began playing friendly matches in 1888, and from those early times, the town club has been subject to much fortune and misfortune.
The club, in all of its incarnations, has had many twists and turns, and is now more than five years into another exciting new era.
South Shields Athletic AFC was a member of the Northern Alliance League and enjoyed moderate success in its short career of five years before being disbanded in 1902 due to financial problems.
The name of Jack Inskip features prominently in the early annals of South Shields FC, and he is credited with the formation of a junior club in 1899 of local schoolboys from the Adelaide Street area of Laygate, that progressed beyond all measure to be ultimately elected into membership of the Football League in 1919.
This team was known as South Shields Adelaide Athletic, and after much success, it re-organised two years later as a limited company in 1910, and now changed its official title to that of South Shields Football Club and was victorious in the Durham Challenge Cup the following season.
Numerous records were made and smashed, plus two consecutive North Eastern League championship titles won, in which seasons only four games were lost.
The 1913-14 and 1914-15 campaigns turned out to be most remarkable for Shields as they were winners of six trophies, champions of the North Eastern League in the first season by a margin of 15 points, winners of the Durham Football Association Challenge Cup, the Ingham Infirmary Cup and retained the Black Cup (Tynemouth Infirmary Cup).
Shields were champions of the league for 1915-16, and in 1919, the years of effort behind the drive for the Football League came to fruition with its election to the Second Division, or the second league as it was then titled.
Initially all seemed promising, and manager Jack Tinn and his colleagues had good reason for guarded satisfaction.
In the 1921 season, with Shields top by five points at Christmas, promotion was in the air and the distinct possibility of league derbies against neighbours Newcastle United and Sunderland was an exciting prospect.
However, the impetus was not maintained, form suffered, and the club finished in sixth place, only 10 points behind champions Nottingham Forest. Indeed only seven more points would have seen Shields promoted as runners-up, and only the bitter pill of crushing disappointment was their reward. How very different club history could have been if promotion had been realised.
Famous players in this period included Warney Cresswell – the only player ever to gain a full international cap with Shields – and Alf Maitland.
Shields reached the FA Cup fifth round in 1925-26 and again in 1926-27, and the ground attendance record for Horsley Hill was achieved, 24,348, but the visitors Swansea Town denied Shields further progress.
The club sold its best players, though, and was relegated to the Third Division North before, facing impending bankruptcy, the only viable alternative from closure was to move, and this regrettable point was reached in 1930.
Despite a final league table position of seventh, the club left the town and moved to Gateshead.
A new club was eventually established and won the 1938-39 North Eastern League championship and the Durham Challenge Cup.
In 1950, Shields moved to Simonside Hall and for a few years from the mid-1950s, it was widely acknowledged as one of the better non-league clubs in the country.
The development of Simonside Hall, backed by the endeavours of a supporters club with a recorded membership of over 13,000, produced positive dividends.
Shields played in five different leagues during the 1950s and 60s, and many will recall with great pleasure the appearance of the great Stanley Matthews in a game at Simonside Hall in 1966.
A major change in the national non-league set-up came in 1968 with the formation of the Northern Premier League, part of the new football pyramid, with South Shields invited as a founder member.
The club advanced to the FA Cup third round in 1970 and was drawn away to Queens Park Rangers. The final result of a 4-1 defeat also told a story of missed chances by Shields and numerous injuries sustained, against a side that included Terry Venables and Rodney Marsh.
Also in 1974, the club reached the FA Trophy semi-final, but financial problems culminated in 1974 with the total loss of the club, the ground of Simonside Hill and all effects.
The club went to Gateshead for the second time in 44 years , re-emerged as Gateshead United and took the place of South Shields in the Northern Premier League, and the rest is history.
A new club, the South Shields Mariners FC, was born, and started with nothing.
Initial progress was quite remarkable and only the lack of a ground with adequate facilities to satisfy the required criteria of the Northern League for promotion prevented this being maintained.
After the winning of two consecutive Northern Alliance League championship titles, and an appearance in the FA Vase quarter-final, the club joined the Wearside League. Further success followed with the winning of the Durham Challenge Cup at Roker Park in 1977.
A ground to develop became a long-running issue and over the course of the next long 18 years, so the club remained a member of the Wearside League, seemingly unable to leave the council-owned Jack Clark Park.
In 1992, the redundant sports club and ground of Filtrona FC became available for purchase, and following protracted negotiations was bought by the club.
Gradual upgrading and development of Filtrona Park and promotion to the First Division of the Northern League was achieved in the years that followed.
The club won silverware in 2009-10 in the Northern League Cup and followed it up with victory in the JR Cleator Cup, but it faced a major challenge to stay at Filtrona Park after its former owner put it up for sale, and eventually Shields were forced to leave the ground in 2013.
They also suffered relegation to Northern League Division Two in 2012-13 and kicked off the following season 20 miles away from home, in Peterlee.
The club played home matches there for two years until new chairman Geoff Thompson bought Filtrona Park – which he renamed Mariners Park and has since become 1st Cloud Arena as part of a sponsorship deal – in the summer of 2015 to start a new era at the club.
In his first season at the helm, Shields won the Northern League Division Two title with 107 points, and in the off-season, Mr Thompson pressed ahead with his plans for the club.
Ground improvements – which began in his first summer at the club – continued, with three new stands erected and a new 3G facility installed adjacent to the main grass pitch.
Shields followed up that superb campaign with the most successful season in the club's history, winning the Northern League, Northern League Cup and Durham Challenge Cup before adding the icing to the cake by lifting the FA Vase at Wembley - the first national trophy in the Mariners' history.
The following season, a third consecutive league title and promotion was achieved as Shields won the Northern Premier League North Division, before they missed out on a fourth consecutive promotion with a defeat in the following season’s play-off final.
The club switched to a hybrid model during the summer of 2019, with much of the first-team squad training on a full-time basis at the Harton and Westoe Miners' Welfare Ground.
The Mariners were 12 points clear at the top of the NPL Premier Division when the 2019-20 season was curtailed, and declared null and void by The FA, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 2020-21 campaign would go on to suffer the same fate but did provide a highlight for Shields, who reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time since reforming in 1974, beating National League side FC Halifax Town and National League North outfit Southport along the way before losing to eventual League Two title winners Cheltenham Town.
Although their progress on the pitch was thwarted by the pandemic, off it the Mariners continued to strive forwards.
As part of the club’s bid to become increasingly community-owned, a share scheme was launched in October 2020 which went on to raise almost £380,000 as 1,000 people invested to become shareholders. Among them was Little Mix star Jade Thirlwall, who is proudly from South Shields and became the club’s honorary president in August 2020.
The club’s progress continued in the summer of 2021 as work began on a transformative new main stand at 1st Cloud Arena which will seat more than 900 supporters and include executive boxes, a new club shop, a bar, boardroom and more. Further work at the ground included the introduction of new terraced areas behind each goal, the relaying of the surface around the pitch, extensive improvements to the pitch itself and the installation of a new pitchside perimeter fence.
The playing squad also completed its transition to a full-time training model in the summer of 2021 under the management of Graham Fenton, with Lee Picton – who presided over a period of success alongside Fenton as joint managers – having been promoted to the position of chief executive.