‘The sky is the limit’ for South Shields FC if the public continue to back the club in their droves, says chairman Geoff Thompson.
The Mariners – who won four trophies last season – will return to action for the first time since winning the FA Vase at Wembley in May on Saturday.
The home friendly with Gateshead is part of their build-up to a season in the eighth tier of English football after achieving back-to-back promotions.
However, the ambitions of Mr Thompson – who took over as chairman in 2015 – are much higher, with his ultimate aim to take the club to the Football League.
To do that, he says it is vital supporters continue to back the Mariners after two seasons which have seen crowd figures rocket at Mariners Park.
About 15,000 supporters followed Shields to Wembley, while an average of more than 1,200 watched home games last season.
One key ingredient is that the town, the fans and our sponsors continue to support us and get behind the club, and if that happens, the sky is the limitGeoff Thompson
If those numbers continue to go in the right direction, Mr Thompson feels a very bright future lies ahead.
He said: “The fans are huge for us.
“You can’t just assume that everyone is going to turn up, so we have to continue performing well on the pitch.
“We’ve got to make sure that the experience for the fans is a great one when they come to Mariners Park.
“If we can do that – and we will do everything we can to deliver on and off the pitch – hopefully people can come along and have a great day out, enjoy some great football, support their local team, and be part of something I’d like to think is a bit of history in the making.
“Why couldn’t we get South Shields back in the Football League? That’s the aim.
“I know people will remind me of it if we don’t quite get there quickly enough, but there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t do it.
“One key ingredient is that the town, the fans and our sponsors continue to support us and get behind the club, and if that happens, the sky is the limit.”
The Mariners have already sold more than 300 season tickets for the new season, which is still almost a month away.
That is almost double the figure they sold in the entirety of last season.
They are on sale from £140 for adults, £105 for concessions and £25 for under-16s, and can be ordered by calling 0191 454 7800, or visiting Mariners Park to collect an application form.
Mr Thompson added: “We had some amazing crowds last season, and I really hope that as many of them as possible can turn up and get behind the lads next season.
“We’re an ambitious football club, and I’m delighted we’ve had a little effect on the people of South Shields and South Tyneside.
“Hopefully people have enjoyed a little bit of success and fun, and enjoyed what we’ve done to date.
“It might take us a few years to get where we want to be, but it’s all about ambition and hard work, and with the public’s help and support we can get there.”
Saturday’s friendly with Gateshead at Mariners Park kicks off at 3pm, with admission paid at the turnstiles, costing £6 for adults, £4 for students and over-65s, and £2 for under-16s.