Morecambe FC's cabinet full of trophies and into the big leagues at last
In the second of a two-part special to mark the centenary of Morecambe Football Club, historian Lawrence Bland looks back at the post Second World War era and the Shrimps’ arrival in the Football League
The Second World War gave Morecambe Football Club the opportunity to start again after an indifferent period on the pitch.
The late 1940s saw a marked improvement, and despite results tailing off in the early 1950s there were positive changes off the pitch.
The new town stand was open in September 1958 at a cost of £2,000 and two years later this was followed by the installation of floodlights which were called on for the first time on October 27 1960, with a game against an All Star Xl (won 4-3).
Two months later the Auxiliary Supporters Club, costing £10,000, was built and opened its doors to fans.
On the pitch 1961-1962 heralded what supporters still describe today as the beginning of the golden years for the Shrimps. That season they were league champions and Lancashire Junior Cup winners, thanks to a 3-1 over Wigan Athletic in front of 8,000 at Deepdale.
The following year saw the main stand, costing £20,000, opened against Leeds United on August 8, with John Charles kicking off for the visitors.
In 1965-1966 ex-Preston North Ender Ken Waterhouse took control of the team as player manager and started to rebuild the squad.
His second season saw the club clinch both the title and the Combination Cup, beating Fleetwood 1-0 at Christie Park in front of 3,719 fans.
And next year the Lancashire Senior Cup was added to the trophy cabinet.
In 1968-1969, Morecambe became founder members of the Northern Premier League, set up to bring together the best northern non-league teams together in one competition.
The 1970s can be said to be the worst decade the club has experienced although it did see local boy and comedy legend Eric Morecambe installed as the club’s president for the season 1970-71. The following year, 1971-1972, the most notable event was the full red strip was replaced with white shirts and red shorts.
After beating Dartford 2-1 in the FA Trophy final at Wembley in 1974, Morecambe endured a barren period with no success on the field, and the club suffering ongoing financial problems.
But the seasons which followed saw a run of cup finals with the Shrimps winning back-to-back Lancashire Junior Cups before losing the re-titled Lancashire ATS Final in 1987-88 and 1989-90.
In 1992-93 John Coleman became the first Morecambe player to be selected for the England semi-professional team, while Morecambe defeated Southport 4-3 after extra time to lift the Lancashire ATS Trophy once again.
The success continued in 1994-95 with Jim Harvey steering the club to the runners-up spot and with it promotion to the Football Conference. Although the club lost out in the final of the ATS Trophy.
The club finished ninth in their first season in the Conference, and won the Lancashire ATS Trophy, defeating the previous season’s conquerors Bamber Bridge in the final.
In 1997-98 Christie Park underwent a major improvement, with the South Stand undergoing renovation and a new North Stand being built at a cost of £550,000, crucially enabling the ground to be suitable for the Football League. In 1998-99 the Lancashire Cup is the sole success of the season, but the new North Stand was officially opened by Sir Bobby Charlton and Southampton provided opposition.
The first season of the new millennium saw the club record its highest league finish of third. The investment in the youth programme paid dividends, with several making first team breakthroughs. The 2002-2003 season was one of the best seasons Morecambe FC has ever had in its history, finishing runners-up in the Conference, the highest position ever.
May 2003 saw the club for the first time in the play-offs, but after two exciting games against Dagenham & Redbridge, the team lost in a penalty shoot-out. Silverware did grace the club once again in 2003-04, with the team winning the Lancashire Marsden Cup beating Conference rivals Accrington Stanley in the first ever two-legged final.
The highlight of 2004-2005 saw Sky TV showing a Morecambe Conference game live from Christie Park for the first time, the side beating York City 2-1. The following year the team made the play-offs again, facing Hereford United in the semi-final. At home the sides draw at 1-1 and set up an exciting second leg at Hereford. The game went into extra time with the sides level at 2-2, but sadly in the 107 minute Hereford got the goal they needed and once again the dreams of league football were laid to rest until the next season.
In 2006-2007 , loanee striker Mathew Blinkhorn made an immediate impact with seven goals before being recalled to Blackpool. However, the team was playing with renewed spirit and a final push saw the club finish third in the Conference. After seeing off York City in the semi-finals, the team had a date at Wembley as the famous old stadium hosted its first Conference play- off final.
Morecambe went down to an early goal from opponents Exeter City and then missed a penalty. This only spurred the team even more and the equaliser came in the 42nd minute with a strike from Gary Thompson.
The second half saw Morecambe controlling the game and pressing for the winner, which came from Danny Carlton in the 82nd minute, seeing the club promoted to the Football League. On their return from London, players and staff went on an open top bus parade through the town and were met by local dignitaries at Morecambe Town Hall.
A major chapter in the club history had been written and pages of non-league football at Christie Park had closed. The dream of Morecambe FC in the Football League was reality.
On August 10, 2010, Morecambe played their first match at the Globe Arena against Championship side Coventry City in the League Cup first round. Morecambe secured a 2–0 win, with Andy Fleming scoring the first two goals at the stadium.