South Shields are set to begin their involvement in the prestigious FA Youth Cup with an away match against Whitley Bay.
The Under-18s are travelling to Hillheads on Wednesday, August 31st in the preliminary round of the competition, with the match to kick-off at 7pm.
The club has some rich recent history in the FA Youth Cup, having reached the third round proper in the 2019-20 campaign. Last season saw Shields qualify for the first round.
Four ties separate the Mariners from the competition proper, but lead 16-19s coach Andy Inness insists it would be foolish to look beyond the challenge of Whitley Bay.
The excitement in the camp, though, is clear.
Inness said: “This is the fixture the Under-18s always look forward to at the start of the season.
“It’s a competition we’ve done really well in over the last few years with previous teams, and there’s no reason this group can’t have another good run in it.
“We feel we have a strong Under-18s group and the only dilemma for us will be which players to select in the squad, because there will be some very disappointed to be left out.
“We will use this week’s training to prepare as best we can for the game.”
A strong number of the Shields squad were involved in the FA Youth Cup last season and some of them earned minutes in the first-team during pre-season, including Alfie Marriott and Nathan Kidd.
That will stand them in good stead for the test at Hillheads, but Inness admits the first tie in this competition is often something of a step into the unknown.
He added: “One of the biggest challenges for any team in the FA Youth Cup is handling the occasion.
“It can be a bit of a shock to the system playing at a proper ground under the floodlights and in front of a crowd.
“I’d imagine there will be a fairly decent crowd at Whitley Bay and the lads will have to deal with that.
“If they want any kind of career in the game, they will have to get used to occasions like this and be able to handle it.”
Inness is enthused about the players at the disposal of the Academy coaching staff, which also includes Jon Shaw, Jamie Williams and Ross Flintoft.
He said: “This is an exciting group of players who the club are excited about.
“They’re chomping at the bit but we’re expecting a very competitive game against Whitley Bay, who will see us as a scalp.
“We will have to settle into it as quickly as possible in order to impose our style of play and give ourselves the best possible chance.”
Admission prices at Hillheads – which has a post code of NE25 8HR – is at 7pm and admission prices are £5 for adults and £3 for concessions.