Morecambe FC: A look back at Jim Bentley’s time as Shrimpers boss

(Credit: Severiano Catindig - Stagg, YouTube)

In the summer of 2002, little did centre back Jim Bentley know that he was signing for a club he would subsequently spend 17 years with.

He didn’t know then he would be promoted via the Conference play offs in 2006, before spending eight years sustaining the club in League Two as a manager.

It was a sad day for the Shrimpers on Monday as Bentley announced his resignation as Morecambe boss alongside long-serving assistant Ken McKenna.

The 43-year-old’s next destination was AFC Fylde, an ambitious Conference side with the aim of reaching the Football League by 2022.

Bentley’s CV may not be as decorated as other managers in the division – Dagenham & Redbridge boss Peter Taylor has international experience with England U21, and Notts County boss Neal Ardley guided AFC Wimbledon through to League One.

But if you take a closer look at Morecambe’s situation, you will see that Bentley never spent a transfer fee during his eight year spell as Shrimpers boss and had to guide the club through several close shaves with administration and even liquidation.

Apart from Bentley’s excellent managerial skills, the other factor that keeps Morecambe afloat is the club’s spirit, and the support of their fans.

Bentley was famously fined £1,000 by the FA after he was sent to the stands in a League Two clash with Cheltenham Town in December 2016.

Bentley speaking at Morecambe’s training ground in early 2019 (Credit: George Hodgson)

A collection was held at the following home game and fans raised the money, which was presented to the boss during his post-match interview by two fans.

At his unveiling as Fylde boss, Bentley did not have a bad word to say about Morecambe fans.

He said: “Morecambe has been great for me in terms of the trust I’ve been shown and the respect from 99.5% of fans and other people has been brilliant.

“It played a massive part in my managerial career and everything else.

“A lot of the biggest things that have happened in my life have happened when I’ve been employed by Morecambe Football Club.”

Despite the bond between manager, players and fans, managing Morecambe did come with its downsides.

The club spent the majority of Bentley’s reign battling against relegation, the manager unable to push on as he would have liked due to a lack of funds relative to other teams in the league.

Talking about the financial situation at the Globe Arena, the 43-year-old said: “Ultimately at a club like Morecambe it has been difficult and sometimes you can find yourselves treading water – there’s been transfer embargos and late payments of wages.

“We came off the back of a good end to last season (in the final 15 games of the season, Morecambe were fifth in the form table), we had good players and you hope for some backing in tying one or two of them down.

“Ultimately, like we did every year, we lose our top scorer and player of the year.

“You end up rebuilding the squad again and you’re hoping everything clicks back into place and you get up and running again.”

The difficulties that Bentley discusses were brought into sharp view last summer when top scorer Aaron Collins, signed in January, was moved on to Forest Green.

And midfielder Jamie Devitt, winner of Morecambe’s Player of the Year award in 2016, rejected a new deal at the Globe Arena that same summer and joined Carlisle.

And forward Tom Barkhuizen was sold to Preston North End in January 2017, when Morecambe were in grave financial danger, and has starred at Deepdale.

Bentley said at his unveiling: “(Barkhuizen) was doing fantastically well for me and he’s done well since.

“We’ve had quite a few success stories with players but we’ve never paid a transfer fee for anyone.”

Bentley took over from Sammy McIlroy, who guided Morecambe to promotion from the Conference, in 2011 (Credit: Stew Jones, Wikimedia Commons)

Bentley took over as player-manager of the Shrimpers initially in 2011, but would not play another game for the side.

He guided Morecambe to a 16th place finish in his first season in charge.