Extra-Time: After a decade at Morecambe, Jim Bentley’s greatest challenge may be still to come

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With Jim Bentley marking a decade at Morecambe FC this week, ADAM LORD looks back at his achievements and the challenges that lie ahead for the Shrimps boss

THIS week marked ten years since Jim Bentley arrived at Morecambe FC from Telford.

And if Morecambe reflect on the last decade, it is no coincidence that the club’s rise to the Football League and subsequent consolidation in League 2, has mirrored Bentley’s growing influence at the Shrimps.

Making his name as a lion-hearted defender, and then long-serving club captain, it was by popular approval that he succeeded Sammy McIlroy in the Globe Arena hot seat 12 months ago.

When he arrived at the club in 2002, turning down offers from other clubs to link up with then Morecambe boss Jim Harvey, the Shrimps were battling at the top end of the Conference, finishing second in Bentley’s first season at the club, losing to Dagenham and Redbridge in the play-offs, something which Bentley and Morecambe would experience again eight years later in League 2.

With key goals as well as heart-on-sleeve defending part of the Bentley package, the Shrimps continued to be in and around the play-off picture in non-league’s top tier before a play-off semi-final victory over York took them to Wembley on May 20, 2007.

No Shrimps fan needs reminding what happened on the most significant day in the club’s history, with Danny Carlton’s goal meaning Bentley was left to climb the steps at the newly redeveloped home of English football as a winning captain, the image of him lifting the trophy one that will live long in the memory of everyone associated with the club, and to a degree, the town.

His transition to playing in the Football League was relatively smooth, and as the number five’s playing career wound down, with Bentley clocking up more than 300 appearances in Morecambe red, it was only natural he would become part of McIlroy’s staff, as reserve team manager, before taking over from the former Manchester United star a year later.

Bentley’s performance as a rookie manager, both on and off the field, has further cemented his legendary status, and the relative ease with which Morecambe FC steered clear of relegation should not be sniffed at.

However, with big clubs coming into the Football League’s bottom tier from above and below, moving Morecambe FC forward in a difficult division may well be his biggest challenge yet.

One that he will undoubtedly relish.