South Shields Football Club’s return to the town is paying dividends after another bumper crowd packed into Mariners Park at the weekend.
A crowd figure of 764 was recorded at the ground on Saturday, just a week after the Northern League Division Two club attracted its then seasonal-highest attendance of 642, for the game against Easington Colliery.
Stokesley Sports Club were the visitors on Saturday as former Sunderland and Middlesbrough midfielder Julio Arca made his debut for the Mariners, and he scored in a 1-1 draw.
The crowd was higher than three attendances on the day in the National League – the fifth tier of English football, five divisions above Shields – and seven in the tier below that. The club has been supported well throughout the season so far, with the attendance at each of the Mariners’ seven home games all beating last season’s division record.
Bob Wray, the club’s historian, said: “It was extremely busy, and it was a pleasure to welcome so many people to the ground.
“It may not have been on the same scale, but recent weeks have reminded me of the club’s past at Simonside Hall, when crowds were huge. South Shields, and indeed South Tyneside, has a big population, and it’s great to see so much interest in the club from the public.
It’s great to see so much interest in the club from the publicBob Wray
“If the club continues to grow, there is no reason why the crowds can’t continue to go up, too. The potential of the club is massive, and with Julio Arca now here as well, things are looking so positive.
“Now we just need to get some consistent results on the pitch, too, to take things on even further.”
Shields returned to Mariners Park – formerly known as Filtrona Park – after a two-year absence in the summer.
During the club’s exile, home games were played 20 miles away, in Peterlee, where last season’s average attendances were at 70.
The club’s average attendance this season was pushed up to almost 433 by Saturday’s bumper gate, with the Mariners in action again tonight at home to Crook Town in the Durham Challenge Cup.