Jim Bentley has admitted that it was the correct time for him to finally leave Morecambe.
After 17-and-a-half years as player, captain and manager – 763 games in all – Bentley left the Globe Arena after agreeing to drop down a division and take over at National League side AFC Fylde.
Along with assistant manager Ken McKenna and goalkeeping coach Lee Jones, both of whom are making the move to Mill Farm as well, he exchanged tearful goodbyes with players, staff and board members on Monday morning.
Bentley said: “It feels mad, I have to be honest.
“It’s a strange, emotional time. I’ve done a lot of crying, a lot of consoling other people and a lot of thinking but, ultimately, I think the time is right to go.
“I’ve had a couple of opportunities to move on in the past but I have no regrets – everything happens for a reason and maybe it’s time to go.”
Bentley leaves after the club dropped to the bottom of League Two following Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Stevenage.
A 10th defeat in 16 matches leaves the Shrimps with it all to do if they are to preserve EFL status for another season.
It is an all-too-familiar situation for Bentley, who was the skipper when they gained promotion into League Two in 2007.
Players including Tom Barkhuizen, Aaron McGowan, Aaron Collins, Jamie Devitt and Shaun Miller have been brought in, developed, and then picked off by other clubs.
There had been hope of a less stressful campaign this time around, given Morecambe’s impressive end to last season as well as the returns of Miller, Cole Stockton and Lewis Alessandra but the results so far have not gone their way.
“I feel like the club’s been treading water and I feel like I’ve been treading water,” Bentley acknowledged.
“You lose your best players every year, the budget hasn’t increased and I’ve done my utmost to improve our league position.
“It’s a massive success to be where we are every year, especially when clubs in the divisions below have shown the ambition they have.
“It’s been really tough, you can’t have many teams who go into their games as second favourites but we’ve been second favourites in two-horse races every week.
“Some big clubs have gone down from League Two over the years while we’ve stayed up but it’s been a difficult, difficult job.”