We look at the ca­reer of More­cambe boss Jim Bent­ley

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

NO player has ever won the hearts of More­cambe fans quite like Jim Bent­ley. A glance at the pro­gramme for his tes­ti­mo­nial in 2012 is proof of that.

“The best or­gan­iser, mo­ti­va­tor and leader I have ever seen on a foot­ball pitch,” said one fan.“And a gen­tle­man who al­ways has time for the sup­port­ers.”

“His aerial abil­ity de­fen­sively was im­mense,” said an­other. “I still re­mem­ber his head­ers go­ing over the stand and into the car­wash.”

And isn’t only fans who eu­lo­gise his ten years at the heart of de­fence. “He was bold, he was brave, he put his body on the line – he ticked ev­ery box for a de­fender,” said for­mer Shrimps boss Jim Har­vey. “And from the mo­ment I met him, I re­alised that he loved the game and would in­spire ev­ery­one around him. That’s ex­actly what hap­pened.”

Sammy McIl­roy, who suc­ceeded Har­vey in 2007 and even­tu­ally made Bent­ley his as­sis­tant, had sim­i­lar praise.

“Jim was our leader on the pitch and great­est ex­am­ple in the dress­ing room,” he said.“He has a great at­ti­tude, a tremen­dous will to win, but most of all he is a great ex­am­ple to the younger play­ers. Ev­ery player, young or old, looks up to him.”

Ev­ery op­po­nent will at­test to the words of Har­vey and McIl­roy. A six-foot, bar­rel-chested bear of a de­fender, Bent­ley was the clas­sic no-non­sense cen­tre-back, a man who, in the words of for­mer Telford team-mate Steve Palmer, “could head the ball fur­ther than I could kick it”.

Yet talk to any­one at More­cambe about Bent­ley and it is ob­vi­ous that the 37-year-old’s ter­ri­fy­ing ap­pear­ance was a mil­lion miles from his warm per­son­al­ity.

Take, for the in­stance, the day in 2005 when Bent­ley walked into the club shop be­fore a Con­fer­ence game purely to say hello to fans.

“He said good evening to ev­ery­one in turn and then got into dis­cus­sion with a ground hop­per who had trav­elled up from Brighton es­pe­cially for that game,” re­calls one.


“Jim spoke to him for a while about his ex­ploits, shook him by the hand, wel­comed him to More­cambe and hoped he had a good evening with us.”

Born: Liver­pool, 1976 (age 37) Play­ing ca­reer: A trainee at Man City, Bent­ley played both as a striker and a centr e-half, sign­ing his first pro con­tract un­der Peter Reid and win­ning pr omo­tion to the re­serve team aged just 16. How­ever, the quick­fire departures of Reid, Alan Ball and Steve Cop­pell left Bent­ley strug­gling t ow ina place

and he was even­tu­ally let go by Frank Clark in 1997. While work­ing part time for his fa­ther’s re­moval com­pany, Bent­ley signed for Telford United, quickly be c o ming cap­tain and mak­ing 161 ap­pear­ances in five years. In 2002, B e nt­ley signed for Jim Har­vey and fel­low Con­fer­ence side More­cambe, fin­ish­ing sec­ond in his first sea­son but los­ing to Da­gen­ham in the play-of f semis. Fur­ther play-off heart­break fol­lowed in 2006, but a year later Bent­ley skip­pered the Shrimps to the Foot­ball League

with a play-off vic­tory over Ex­eter at Wem­b­ley. He ef­fec­tively re­tired on be­com­ing man­ager in 2011, end­ing his ten-year ca­reer at Christie Park with 29 goals in 328 games. Man­age­rial ca­reer: Ap­pointed man­ager in May 2011, Bent­ley guided the Shrimps to fin­ishes of 15th and 16th

in his first two sea­sons. This year – de­scribed by Bent­ley as his tough­est yet – saw the Shrimps briefly chal­lenge for the play-offs be­fore fin­ish­ing 18th.

Or the aftermath of More­cambe’s dev­as­tat­ing 6-0 de­feat to Da­gen­ham in the first leg of the 2010 League Two play-off semis, when Bent­ley per­son­ally wrote a pub­lic let­ter of apol­ogy for both his and the team’s per­for­mance.

Or just the hun­dreds of Satur­day af­ter­noons when Bent­ley would chew the fat with pun­ters in the club­house af­ter a match.

“I value that strong bond with the fans and I’ll al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate them, win, lose or draw,” he says.“I go into the sup­port­ers’ bar af­ter ev­ery home game, and if I can ex­plain a few things or an­swer ques­tions I will. Some­times I’ll rile them and some­times they’ll rile me but, to me, that’s what foot­ball is about.”

It’s an ap­pre­ci­a­tion born of know­ing what life out­side foot­ball is like. Re­leased by Man City – where he played both up front and at the back – as a teenager, Bent­ley played part-time for Telford while work­ing for his dad Jack’s re­moval com­pany.

“I got up at seven o’clock, did a day’s graft, and then drove 70 miles to Telford for a match or to train,” he re­calls. “That two-year spell made me re­alise how much I wanted to get back into full-time foot­ball.”

Five years and hero sta­tus at the Bucks was fol­lowed by that decade at More­cambe, crowned in 2007 by skip­per­ing the side to pro­mo­tion from the Con­fer­ence

Ap­pointed man­ager in 2011 – aged just 34 – he has since kept the Shrimps in League Two three years run­ning, de­spite a tiny budget and small gates mak­ing them favourites to be rel­e­gated ev­ery sea­son.


“We once said that if any­body from that side was go­ing to be a man­ager it was Jim,” said Palmer. “Even in his early twen­ties he was a born cap­tain. He had ev­ery qual­ity and I wasn’t at all sur­prised to see him take over at More­cambe, or that he’s do­ing well. People just fol­low him.”

And as for Bent­ley, he never had any in­ten­tion of leav­ing More­cambe, whether there was a place in the dugout at the end or not.

“I’ve al­ways felt very com­fort­able at More­cambe, with the town and the people,” he said. “It’s a very hon­est place.

“You see some play­ers with a string of clubs next to their name, and they seem to move here and there ev­ery few months.

“But I’m the type of per­son who likes to be set­tled in life. I don’t like change, and More­cambe has been a set­tling in­flu­ence on my ca­reer. I love it here.”

SUC­CESS: Jim Bent­ley cel­e­brates with the Con­fer­ence play-off tro­phy in 2007

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