Record-breaking crowd for South Shields FC as 2,600 watch derby

The previous record attendance at Mariners Park had been 1,827, for the match with Hebburn Town in April this year. Picture by Peter Talbot.

The previous record attendance at Mariners Park had been 1,827, for the match with Hebburn Town in April this year. Picture by Peter Talbot.

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It may not have quite gone to plan on the pitch – but Saturday was a record-breaking day for South Shields FC.

A remarkable crowd of 2,651 packed into the club’s Mariners Park ground, in Shaftesbury Avenue, for the derby with North Shields in Northern League Division One.

Geoff Thompson has helped to transform the club since taking over as chairman last summer.

Geoff Thompson has helped to transform the club since taking over as chairman last summer.

The Mariners lost 1-0 after North Shields scored against the run of play with six minutes left.

The attendance broke the ground record by more than 800, and was the highest home crowd for the Mariners since the club reformed in 1974.

It bettered a host of FA Cup first round ties, including Hartlepool United’s match against Stamford at Victoria Park.

At the equivalent level over the weekend – the ninth tier of English football – the next highest crowd was 464.

In present-day terms, a gate like that is quite exceptional for Shields

Bob Wray

For club historian and vice-president Bob Wray, it brought back memories of halcyon days at Simonside Hall, where the town team played before moving to Gateshead – with a Shields team ultimately reforming – in 1974.

He said: “You’d have to go back 40 to 45 years to find a South Shields team playing in front of such a large home crowd, and this is the biggest since the club reformed.

“In present-day terms, a gate like that is quite exceptional for Shields.

“In my lifetime, the town team has played in front of crowds of 20,000, but you have to go back to the 1950s for that.

“Had it been a nice day on Saturday, who knows how many people might have been there.

“It was remarkable that so many people came to the match in such foul weather.

“The way the fanbase has grown in the last 18 months or so has been incredible, and hopefully there will be lots more big crowds to come.

“It was a real pity about the result, but that’s football, and hopefully another big crowd will cheer us on against Marske on Saturday.”

The turnaround in Shields’ fortunes has been remarkable since businessman Geoff Thompson took over the running of the club as chairman 18 months ago.

The club had been playing its home games 20 miles away, in Peterlee, after an enforced two-year exile from South Tyneside when its lease on Mariners Park expired.

Fifteen crowds of over 1,000 have been recorded at Mariners Park over the last year-and-a-half, with the next fixture there a vital FA Vase tie with Marske United on Saturday.