Next Morecambe Manager: Four candidates to replace Jim Bentley

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 28 October 2019, 15:30

Jim Bentley’s exit as Morecambe boss ends the longest managerial reign, of eight years, in the top four divisions of English football.

Bentley has been involved with Morecambe since 2002, helping the club to promotion to the Football League under Sammy McIlroy in 2007, then inspiring them to reach the League Two Play-Offs in 2010 as a strong, bruising centre-back, before keeping them in the EFL every year, against the odds, as a manager.

His 17-year association with the Shrimps is to be respected and celebrated, but who will replace him as manager?

We look at four contenders in the next Morecambe manager market...

Kevin Nolan

Kevin Nolan has similar qualities to Bentley, besides also being a Liverpudlian.

He builds strong, friendly relationships with the players he manages, which is important at a club like Morecambe.

The facilities are not perfect; the club does not own a separate training ground and therefore either train on their own pitch or leave themselves reliant on the generosity of Lancaster University or other places.

Players cannot always be looked after in material terms, so it can be helpful to have a manager who supports them on an emotional level.

Nolan has also worked with Lewis Alessandra at Notts County and may be able to get a tune out of the versatile forward, who is most likely to provide the quality Morecambe need to beat the drop.

Darren Kelly

Darren Kelly already has EFL managerial experience in the division above with Oldham Athletic in 2015.

While that particular role did not quite go as he might have hoped, Kelly is wiser for the experience.

He guided Hyde United to Northern Premier League Division One North title in 2017-18 and to a 10th-placed finish the following season, before moving upstairs to a Sporting Director role.

Morecambe have a passive ownership regime, with Graham Howse, Rod Taylor and Bond Group Investments rarely communicating with fans or doing much to improve the club.

It could therefore be beneficial for them to have a manager who can not only handle the on-field matters, but someone who can also oversee the club’s overall development and carry out some of the off-field tasks.

Plus, Kelly has knowledge of the non-league market.

When Morecambe reached the Play-Offs against the odds in 2009-10, they had shown the vision to spend £20K on Mark Duffy, who had been starring for Southport, two divisions below.

More recently, we have seen the likes of Stevenage’s Luther Wildin and Crawley’s Panutche Camara prove that value can be found from the lower reaches of non-league.

If Kelly can unlock a gem in places other clubs aren’t looking, Morecambe might be able to gain a competitive advantage.

Stewart Drummond and Kevin Ellison

Stewart Drummond and Kevin Ellison are much-loved figures at Morecambe, having given the club a combined 25 years of service.

Drummond, a former midfielder, is currently the Academy Manager and will therefore have some experience of coaching players, as well as full knowledge of the club’s youth setup.

If Drummond has the characteristics to be strict when needed, then one could imagine him complimenting the effervescent energy of Kevin Ellison.

Some fans would understandably want the next manager to have no prior affiliation to Morecambe – and maybe that is understandable long-term.

However, there’s also an argument to say that whether the Shrimps stay up this season might not necessarily come down to tactics.

Andrew Tutte and Aaron Wildig, arguably Morecambe’s best two midfielders, have started fewer than half the total number of combined league games they could have started since the start of last season, largely due to injuries.

Without them, the de facto midfield pairing has been one of Alex Kenyon, an honest but limited anchor man and Tom Brewitt, who was signed as a versatile defender.

The next manager could have the most innovative ideas in the world but if the correct personnel is not there, then maybe Morecambe need two characters who will unite the club for a relegation scrap.

Dave Challinor

Dave Challinor’s reign at AFC Fylde lasted eight years, the same number as Bentley’s tenure at Morecambe.

The Liverpudlian oversaw consistent progress at Fylde, whom he led to the National League Play-Offs in 2017-18.

The 42-year-old is very passionate on the field but he can also take a step back and have a touch of class off it.

In Fylde’s Play-Off eliminator defeat in 2018, for example, he was furious with his players for a poor start, but then at full-time he went into the Boreham Wood dressing room to congratulate every opposition player – that shows there’s two sides to him.

Equally, Challinor has been able to coax the best out of Danny Rowe, who does not quite share his mentality in terms of raw passion and commitment but has a natural gift in terms of scoring goals from anywhere on the field.

Challinor recognized that different characters can require different styles of man management and that is an advanced trait, for which we frequently see the elite managers - Sir Alex Ferguson, for example – get lauded.

The former centre-back got the Coasters playing good football in his time there and, having been a long throw specialist in his playing days, knows the advantage that can be gained from those scenarios.

Verdict

Challinor looks the pick out of the external candidates, especially being out of contract.

Were Morecambe to go with Drummond and Ellison though, they might have funds spare to appoint a Sporting Director and perhaps modernize their internal processes.

Managers Departed

Last man down

Graham Westley
Graham Westley
(Stevenage)
16th February
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