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South Shields to set new record attendance as boss Kevin Phillips speaks ahead of FA Cup clash

South Shields are to set a new record attendance as excited boss Kevin Phillips speaks ahead of the FA Cup clash at home to Forest Green.

The Mariners are a club with big ambitions and on Saturday they plan on using the tournament to showcase exactly how they mean business.

Flying high in the Northern Premier League and managed by Premier League Golden Boot winner Kevin Phillips, South Shields are looking to move up English football’s pyramid, having done a good job so far in the last 10 or so years.

The seventh-tier outfit have already come through four rounds of qualifying in the cup to get to this stage for only the second time in their history.

Two years ago they ended up getting knocked out by then-League Two club Cheltenham Town in the First Round.

They now face League One side Forest Green Rovers and this time it will be live BBC television cameras to the First Cloud Arena.

South Shields currently sit fifth in the table but with plenty of games in hand on all the teams above them and with crowds averaging more than 2,000, they are extremely well supported for the level at which they play and playing some decent stuff.

Promotion to the National League North is the immediate aim and something that came close for a number of years having lost in the playoffs in both 2019 and last season, while in 2020, they were 12 points clear at the top when the campaign was curtailed because of Covid.

The club went full-time at the start of 2021/22 and chairman Geoff Thompson took the difficult decision to replace long-serving manager Graham Fenton with the man who made a name for himself in the Premier League goalscoring charts in 1999-00.

Phillips was previously a coach at the likes of Leicester City, Derby County and Stoke City.

Dropping so far down the divisions was something Phillips hadn’t considered.

“It’s football and nothing surprises me,” the 49-year-old told BBC Sport.

“I had finished playing and went straight into coaching at three great clubs. But then you’re out of work, bar some media stuff.

“The phone rings and you think it’ll be an EFL or maybe a Premier League club but you have to realise that so many people want one of these jobs.

“I always wanted a chance at management but to manage at this level was maybe not something I had dreamed of doing.

“But then you see the infrastructure and ambition the club has, which people will see when they visit the ground.

“I’m absolutely loving it and I love being out on the grass with the players.

“It has been a massive learning curve and it can be stressful and I have certainly gone a lot greyer.

“But I’ve been in football my whole life – I don’t know anything else – and I think I am good at managing players and individuals.”

Phillips arrived t South Shields in January but was unable to deliver the promotion the club wanted so badly. They missed out on going up automatically to Buxton and then lost at home to Warrington Town in the playoffs.

“For me, losing in the play-offs last year was much worse,” he said. “And I’ve lost in three play-off finals and Wembley is not a nice place to lose.

“But standing on that touchline against Warrington, I’ve never felt more stressed.

“I felt like I had been brought to the club to get us promoted and that I had failed.

“It took me a good while to get over it.

“But we brought in nine new players over the summer. They were all in before pre-season and it is paying dividends for us now.”

“Our players can see the rewards if they work hard and do well,” he adds.

“They all see the story of Jamie Vardy, I’m not sure they would know about me.

“But I was able to work hard and I always felt an opportunity would come at a higher level.

“The quality now at this level is a lot better but a lot of other things have not changed. The football is tough and you have to roll your sleeves up.

“Our pitch is like a carpet and we’re a possession-based side. But you go to some places where it feels like the cows have only just been cleared off and you have to dig in and play a little bit differently, maybe a bit longer.

“There are also some places where I’m not sure I’d have been able to play because the floodlights weren’t that bright. But nothing surprises me too much in non-league.”

There has been a lot of changes around the ground recently, a new £3m stand, which includes 15 executive boxes, opened this season as they try and make a stadium that is suitable for the English Football League, with a record crowd of more than 3,500 expected at the First Cloud Arena.

Off the pitch, the club have a foundation which works with more than 1,000 children to get them involved in sport as they look to make a positive impact in their local community.

“We want to create something sustainable here, but we’re not at the level I want to us to be yet,” Thompson said.

“There is a population of 75,000 in the town and in an area that loves football, we could get to the Football League one day.

“My hope is that we get to the National League North, maybe then get up into the National League and then we can reassess things as we have to show it can be supported financially.

“This cup tie against Forest Green is fantastic, as we can showcase what South Shields is all about.”


South Shields to set new record attendance as boss Kevin Phillips speaks ahead of FA Cup clash


1) South Shields 4–0 Coleshill Town – 2016–17 FA Vase Semi-Final 2nd leg 18 March 2017 – 3,464 
2) South Shields 5–3 FC United of Manchester – 2019–20 NPL Premier Division 14 March 2020 – 3,274 
3) South Shields 0–2 Sunderland – Pre-Season Friendly 11 July 2019 – 3,261 
4) South Shields 6–1 Newport Pagnell Town – 2016–17 FA Vase Quarter-Final 18 February 2017 – 3,161 
5) South Shields 1–2 Hartlepool United – 2017–18 FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round 14 October 2017 – 2,887
6) South Shields 3–2 York City – 2017–18 FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round 30 September 2017 – 2,806 
7) South Shields 2–0 Stafford Rangers – 2021–22 NPL Premier Division 26 March 2022 – 2,676
8) South Shields 2–3 Whitby Town – 2021–22 NPL Premier Division 18 April 2022 – 2,669 
9) South Shields 0–1 North Shields – 2016–17 Northern League Division 1 5 November 2016 – 2,651 
10) South Shields 3–1 Matlock Town – 2021–22 NPL Premier Division 22 February 2022 – 2,639

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