Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Shields Have a Long Climb Ahead - but Their Passionate Owner Has Got the Ambition Needed to Get Them There

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Shields Have a Long Climb Ahead - but Their Passionate Owner Has Got the Ambition Needed to Get Them There

Article excerpt

THERE is much history swirling around the town of South Shields, where football has been played for as long as 130 years, writes JOHN GIBSON.

The Mariners were proud members of the Football League for more than a decade - nine seasons in the Second Division from 1919 to 1928 and another couple in the old Third Division North.

Shields rose to the dizzy heights of sixth in Division Two and made it to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Manchester United and the likes of Spurs, Leeds, West Ham, Stoke and Leicester were their opponents, while Warney Cresswell won an England cap when in the plumage of South Shields.

Even in much later times when Charlie Thomas and Newcastle FA Cup winner Alf McMichael became their manager and I was attending as a cub reporter, up to 16,000 could pour into Simonside Hall to watch a top quality non-league side.

This, then, is the historic and proud background that inspired a South Shields lad who has made a right few quid to ride to the club's rescue.

The Mariners were buried in the second division of the Northern League when Geoff Thompson, a selfmade millionaire, took up their cudgel, but now they are climbing football's pyramid with a target of making the Football Conference.

The man is fiercely ambitious for his hometown club yet a realist who knows it must Thompson become self-sufficient to survive at the highest level possible, and not sink again without trace when the golden days of Geoff Thompson are gone.

He told me: "South Shields and the surrounding area has a population of around 100,000 so why can't we pull in gates of 5,000 and put ourselves on the football map? "I want us to climb up into the Conference; if we do then anything could be possible after that."

South Shields weren't even playing in the town when Geoff was first approached - they were housed more than 20 miles away in Peterlee, drifting with no particular future. …

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