“I’ve probably never had a day off” - Jim Bentley on five years as Morecambe boss

Jim Bentley hands out instructions at Plymouth earlier in the season. Picture: Matt Rushton
Jim Bentley hands out instructions at Plymouth earlier in the season. Picture: Matt Rushton

After a hard few months at work most people have the luxury of a holiday.

Pack the suitcase, head to sunnier climes and most importantly of all, switch off that mobile phone that never stops beeping.

Jim Bentley poses with the Capital One Cup ahead of Morecambe's game against Newcastle. Picture: Paul Currie

Jim Bentley poses with the Capital One Cup ahead of Morecambe's game against Newcastle. Picture: Paul Currie

Some sun, sea, sand and probably a few drinks later, the necessary recharging is done.

Jim Bentley has jetted off at the end of hard season with his young family time and again but has he truly ever had a day off during his five years as Morecambe manager?

“Probably not, no,” says The Shrimps’ Wembley-winning captain.

“That’s just the nature of the job.

Jim Bentley celebrates Morecambe's dramatic win over Chesterfield. Picture: Garth Hamer

Jim Bentley celebrates Morecambe's dramatic win over Chesterfield. Picture: Garth Hamer

“It’s full on every day. Even on Christmas Day when you’re thinking about family time you’re thinking about the game the next day as well.

“You get your break at the end of the season but your phone’s red hot with agents calling you about players.

“It’s very difficult. Every night I go to bed I’m probably thinking about something to do with the next game.

“Every time you wake up the first thing that crosses your mind is planning or anticipation or nervous energy for a game.

Jim Bentley shakes hands with Sammy McIlroy at the end of what turned out to be the Northern Irishman's final game in charge of Morecambe. Picture: Garth Hamer

Jim Bentley shakes hands with Sammy McIlroy at the end of what turned out to be the Northern Irishman's final game in charge of Morecambe. Picture: Garth Hamer

“It rules your life.”

The truth is, now a month short of his 40th birthday, Bentley wouldn’t have it any other way.

A workaholic, along with assistant Ken McKenna, The Shrimps boss never stops analysing or taking in games at all levels.

Despite that undoubted work ethic it’s been far from plain sailing, the former central defender having just completed his toughest season in charge.

The Shrimps were expected to build on a best League 2 finish under Bentley of 11th but a horrible 2016 saw the campaign just gone end in 21st with a lowest ever Football League points total of 46.

Having finished 15th, 16th and 18th in his first three seasons in charge the proud Evertonian’s overriding feeling is pride however despite some the flack that’s come his way in recent weeks.

“It’s been more demanding (than I thought it would be),” says Bentley.

“It’s very difficult but I love it, it’s like a drug to me.

“I think this five years has really taught me a lot.

“It’ll stand me in good stead for the rest of my managerial career wherever that will be and whatever level that will be.

“I’ll look back on this five years, and hopefully more, at this club and be proud of what we’ve done.”

A heart on his sleeve central defender in his playing days, Bentley has surprised some with his forward-thinking approach to management.

Placing a great emphasis on sports science, and using all the technology he has at his disposal, the 39-year-old believes he has developed the club in all areas while ensuring the holy grail of Football League status is preserved.

“We’ve brought the club a long way in all departments,” says Bentley.

“We’ brought the youth development side on, the sports science on, the DVD analysis side.

“Everything’s improved in my opinion since I’ve taken over.

“It is difficult because you are one of the small boys in the division competing against the odds every year.

“I’ve always enjoyed being the underdog and relished the challenge.

“The minimum requirement is to stay in the Football League and we’ve done that in the five years I’ve been here.

“There’s a lot of big clubs who have finished below us and even been relegated.”

Bentley’s five years in charge since taking over on May 13, 2011 make him the fourth longest serving manager in the top four divisions behind only MK Dons’ Karl Robinson, who went to the same school, Exeter’s Paul Tisdale, a regular League 2 touchline rival of Bentley’s, and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who sits top of the pile.

Morecambe’s history with managers, having had just three in the last 20 years, and Bentley’s association with club mean his relative longevity compared with most appointments in the modern era is hardly a surprise.

There have been plenty of highs since being promoted from reserve team manager to take over from Sammy McIlroy - topping League 2 after a couple of strong starts, the come-from-behind 4-3 win over Chesterfield and memorable Globe league cup nights against Wolves and Newcastle to name a few.

There have obviously been no shortage of lows too, some of the most acute coming in the last few months, but Bentley says whatever happens in the coming months, his future more uncertain than ever with new owners expected at the Globe Arena in the coming weeks, he will leave with no regrets.

“I’d hoped I would be (here after five years) but in this day and age people expect you to be gone within a year or two,” he said.

“I’ve got a great relationship with Morecambe.

“It is my second home as a player, as a coach, as a captain and as a manager.

“I’ve given it my all and if I ever leave this club I’ll do it with my head held high.

“It’s been an eventful five years. I’ve learnt so much about the job, about myself, about the game.

“I’m thankful that I’ve got the support I’ve got and who knows what’s going to happen in the future.

“I think it’s a great achievement to be at one club five years.

“Long may it continue.”