Comment: Rebuild starts at the back for Morecambe boss Bentley

Ryan Edwards. Picture: Matt Rushton
Ryan Edwards. Picture: Matt Rushton

It seems pretty simple when it comes to Jim Bentley’s summer transfer business.

As soon as the wheels came off a difficult 2015-2016 season all eyes were on a defence that had shipped 91 goals when all was said and done.

With Aaron McGowan already under contract for next season having impressed early on in the campaign attention turned to what would happen to the remaining members of the struggling backline.

Only Ryan Edwards has survived with Bentley now facing the biggest rebuilding job of his five years in charge.

Still only 22 and with plenty of Football League games under his belt the former Blackburn Rovers youngster had an excellent first full season with the club, leading to him being linked to clubs at Championship and League 1 level.

The giant centre half wasn’t the only player to find the season just gone tough but his undoubted potential still remains.

He needs experience next to him, a head it, kick it, leader of a central defender will do just fine as The Shrimps look to sure things up come August.

Those the wrong side of 30 and with the knowhow required won’t come cheap though with Bentley again set to be battling against the odds financially - at least until any takeover is confirmed.

There will be more than one centre half coming through the door though so competition for places is likely to be keen, Andy Parrish, Adam Dugdale and Chris Doyle all having left the club.

Elsewhere, Laurence Wilson’s early departure means there is a vacancy at left back to fill, Luke Conlan having put in a decent audition on loan from Burnley during the closing weeks of the season.

Barry Roche will be Morecambe’s number one again having signed a new one-year deal but as with most summers a back-up goalkeeper is one on the checklist for Bentley, a piece of business usually done towards the end of pre-season.

Further forward things look to be little more clear cut.

Andy Fleming, Tom Barkhuizen, Kevin Ellison, Lee Molyneux, Paul Mullin and Aaron Wildig are all under contract.

As is captain Peter Murphy and after a season where Shrimps fans saw little of their skipper much could depend on his return from cruciate knee ligament surgery.

Expecting too much is always dangerous, especially after such a long time out and with his return only penned in for the end of August, but after a season where Morecambe lacked leadership, Murphy was brought in to provide that only for two serious injuries to derail his and Bentley’s plans.

He will be hoping Murphy and Fleming can strike up a partnership in central midfield 12 months later than planned.

Wildig also showed signs of some of his best form in the closing weeks of the season after a troublesome hamstring injury saw his progress stall.

Many of the front men are under contract, look out for Barkhuizen to continue to flourish with more first team football as both a wide man and perhaps increasingly, a central striker, while Ellison will bid to continue to defy father time.

Mullin and Molyneux will be hoping they can rise from the fringes with competition likely to be coming in.

Two spearheads are not sure to be at the Globe Arena though as Jamie Devitt and Shaun Miller, along with Alex Kenyon, take their time to decide where their future lies.

As mentioned, in terms of problem solving it’s obvious where Bentley needs to look this summer but if Miller and Devitt do find new homes after standout seasons The Shrimps boss will be presented with a whole host of new problems as he looks for reinforcements at both ends.

With eight players already gone, two further departures would signal a real ripping up of the Morecambe squad.

After the season just gone and with a potential takeover to come, that was almost inevitable.

It is what happens next that is crucial because Morecambe can’t afford to start their 10th Football League season as they ended the previous campaign.