By Mark Carruthers
South Shields have kicked off their preparations for their first season as a full-time club by handing a new three-year deal to highly-rated defender Dillon Morse.
The former Carlisle United and Gateshead defender has become a popular figure at the 1st Cloud Arena since joining South Shields from Blyth Spartans in the summer of 2016.
He was a key part of the Mariners squad that claimed a historic quadruple within his first 12 months at the club as they won the Northern League title, Durham Challenge Cup, Northern League Cup and FA Vase.
Morse also helped the club to the Northern Premier League North Division title and will be a key part of their plans for the next three years as they look to reach the National League North for the first time.
Mariners manager Graham Fenton has challenged the 26-year-old to continue the progression he has shown over the last four years.
He said: “We have already seen Dillon’s growth and quality, and in this next period we really need to see his leadership skills develop and thrive. We’re looking forward to watching that happen.
“He is an absolutely fantastic character to have around the dressing room and great to work with.
“All the lads love him to bits and on top of that he is a tremendous defender.
“Dillon epitomises the type of character we need in our squad and embodies the core values of the club in terms of his work ethic, his ability to unify people and the humility he shows.
“We feel very lucky that he has committed his long-term future to the club.”
South Shields have also confirmed the departure of striker Jason Gilchrist.
The former FC United of Manchester frontman has spent the last two seasons on South Tyneside and has scored 30 goals during two curtailed campaigns.
Gilchrist was offered a new deal to remain on South Tyneside but has decided to return to his native North West when his contract expires at the end of June.
Fenton explained: “We made Jason an offer to stay, and he said he had really enjoyed his time at the club, and that he would have had no hesitation in signing an extension if we were located in the North West.
“Because of family commitments, he has decided his future lies elsewhere and closer to the North West.
“We would like to thank Jason for his efforts in the time he was with us and wish him all the best for the future.”