Odds shown as:

Exclusive: Jim Bentley talks 17 years at Morecambe, his new adventure at AFC Fylde, and that Facebook poll


Player, captain, coach, player-manager, manager.

In 17 topsy-turvy years at Morecambe, Jim Bentley lived and breathed football in every possible way, often under the most testing of conditions. Over the course of eight-and-a-half years as Shrimps boss Bentley constantly defied the odds to preserve the club’s Football League status, before he decided to make the tough decision to undertake a fresh new challenge at AFC Fylde.

Five weeks after Bentley’s appointment at the National League side, The Sack Race ventured over to Mill Farm - the impressive multi-million pound Sports Village he now calls home - to discuss the 43-year-old’s managerial career to date in the third instalment of our In The Manager’s Office series.

“When myself and my assistant Kenny [Ken McKenna] drove in for training the day after I was appointed at AFC Fylde I had to remind him to put on his indicator and get off at Junction 32, as 33 is for Lancaster where we used to train, and 34 is for Morecambe. I think we’ve just about got used to it now though!”

It’s difficult to not be impressed by the surroundings of Mill Farm, and it doesn’t take long to see what attracted Bentley to make the unusual decision to step down the managerial ladder from League Two to non-league; with the state-of-the-art facilities, swish 6,000-seater stadium, and 3G pitches providing a solid foundation for the club’s not-so-secret goal of becoming a Football League club.

“The Chairman is very ambitious, he wants promotion and if that means me working all hours God sends then I’ll do that. I base myself on hard work and if it means me making the sacrifices of my family to help things happen at Fylde then I believe that I’d do that to make my family’s life better in the future.

“The approach came after AFC Fylde had sacked Dave Challinor after eight years - he was the longest-serving manager in the top-five divisions after myself. He did a fantastic job there. I saw a few people were getting tipped for the job then suddenly Morecambe got a phone call asking for permission to speak to me. The timing was right as Morecambe hadn’t given me a new deal in the summer.

“Fylde is a successful club on the up with a great story so far. Now I’m here it’s up to me to stamp my personality on it and do what I think is right to move the club forward.

“I don’t want to be seen as a manager that can just keep a club in a division every year, I want to go down as a manager who wins promotions and goes on good cup runs, and I now have the opportunity to do that at AFC Fylde where I will give it my absolute all.”

Ahead of the weekend’s trip down to the capital, there’s a real buzz around the place following back-to-back league wins, a winning streak which was extended to three matches in a row after Fylde beat Kingstonian and progressed through to the FA Cup third round for the first time ever. Five weeks in and Bentley had already created history, both for the club and on a personal level.

Jim Bentley in his new surroundings at AFC Fylde
Jim Bentley in his new surroundings at AFC Fylde

It was towards the start of the decade that Bentley made his first steps into the coaching arena at Morecambe. Then come May 2011 he was unveiled as the club’s player-manager following the departure of Sammy McIlroy.

“I was at an end-of-season do having a chat and a drink with the General Manager at the time. All of a sudden I started to think ‘hang on he’s asking me a few questions here’.

“I then got a phone call off Peter McGuigan [then Chairman] and he wanted me to go and meet him for a chat. As I headed over I was thinking he was going to ask me who I thought should replace Sammy McIlroy but in the back of my mind I was hoping it might be me as I’d cut my teeth managing the reserves.

“We had a cup of tea and a good honest and open chat, and it didn’t take long for me to know that it was in fact an interview. I did myself no harm as he offered me the job.”

Bentley managed Morecambe for a whopping 8-and-a-half-years
Bentley managed Morecambe for a whopping 8-and-a-half-years

So at the age of just 34 Bentley had opened the door to his managerial career, but while his position was titled ‘player-manager’ he decided against stepping out of the field of play. He now had the challenge of managing players he was previously teammates with.

“If you’re honest, open and do things the right way then people will respect you for it. I’d already coached the reserves for 18 months, during which I’d made the move from the player’s dressing room to the staff room. I’d had a foot in both camps which was a great transitional period for me, although I must add that I never grassed anyone up and I wasn’t a spy!”

You may think that training facilities are a given at Football League clubs, but there were occasions when Bentley’s Morecambe had to look to the local community for help, just so they could prepare for games.

“The toughest thing was having nowhere to train. So many things went on that I could write a book on it. We had a high-school where we used to train so anytime it rained it wouldn’t just go and sit on top of the surface but come underneath as well.

"It was even waterlogged in August, three days before the start of the season.

“We also used to lean on the local college - Morecambe & Lancaster College - but they’ve got lessons and their own teams that played there so you had to juggle around to try and get a pitch. It was a big headache.

“There was a lot of doom and gloom when everyone wasn’t getting paid. It was all over the local news and even the national news. It was a really stressful time for us all. The owners had gone away, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. There was the threat of administration and even worse liquidation. 

“That’s not football, that’s life, with people coming to see you about mortgages and child care and things like that.

"But I’m proud of what happened at that stage, we put on a positive front, battled hard and thankfully we got through it and we moved on to a positive outcome.”

During his time at Morecambe Bentley worked under difficult financial restraints, and quite remarkably he never spent a single penny on transfer fees in over eight years at the helm.

“We didn’t have a scout, you’re going off any information you can get. Myself and Kenny would go to a lot of games, do a lot of homework, and speak to people who we know in the game about certain individuals who we were looking to sign. There’s a lot of players who lose their way. I did mention once that Morecambe had become a bit like a dog’s home with regards to bringing players in like a nice pedigree dog which just needed tidying up.

“Tom Barkhuizen was probably the best example. He left Blackpool and looked like he was falling out of love with the game but we got him in, and while he took a bit of time to get going once he was up and running and he had a platform to show what he can do. He’s now one of the Championship’s best players.

But Bentley did rue the time Morecambe didn’t have the cash to snap up a talented non-league player who would go on to play in the Premier League.

“I once went to watch Hinckley United and saw a player that I liked the look of. I did a little bit of digging and found out that he was going to cost x amount of money. I asked Morecambe if it was possible to get him, they said no. If there was a couple of quid spare I would have taken him there and then based on that one game. 

“A couple of months later he moved on to Luton, then Brentford, Burnley and now he’s at Watford - that player was Andre Gray. A few seasons ago when Morecambe played Burnley in pre-season I told him that instead of being in the Premier League he could have been living the dream and playing at Morecambe. He looked at me like I was mad!

“But we did have success stories and it shows that you don’t have to just have money to succeed. I’m proud that we’ve played a big part in a lot of players’ professional careers.”

Andre Gray: From Hickley to the Premier League
Andre Gray: From Hickley to the Premier League

Mid-way through the 2017/18 season the FA smacked Bentley with a fine and a two-match touchline ban after he was sent to the stands during Morecambe’s clash with Cheltenham.

“That was my first ever touchline ban. It was a difficult week for me as I’d lost a family member and the club hadn’t been paid.

“I didn’t agree with the decision that was made and I didn’t agree with what happened after the incident with regards to opposition players and how they reacted to get one of my players sent off. It was just a culmination of everything. I’m quite mild-mannered although I look like I could flip me lid! I have got breaking points and that was my breaking point at that stage. I didn’t do myself any favours, I got sent off, I got fined and a touchline ban.”

Then, unbeknown to Bentley, the Morecambe fans clubbed together and paid for his fine, which produced a heartwarming managerial moment, captured live on TV.

“It was after we beat Notts County at home 4-1. There were four of us in the room and when I was told what the fans did I saw a little tear in the eye of each person present and I got quite emotional, but I don’t mind that. It’s the way I am. I care about my football club. It was an unbelievably nice touch.

“From day one I’ve always had a great relationship and interaction with the fans at Morecambe. So when they paid my fan I teamed up with Sky and we got them all a pie and a pint, which was just my way of repaying them.”

The summer of 2018 saw Arsene Wenger end his 22-year tenure at Arsenal, then soon after Paul Tisdale left Exeter City after 12 years at the helm, meaning England’s top-four leagues had a new name at the top of the ‘longest-serving manager’ leaderboard: Jim Bentley.

“I was out and about at the time and suddenly my phone started buzzing with Whatsapp messages and texts. As soon as I opened the first one I knew what had happened. 

“It was a bit strange because when you grow up and see the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger having such long tenures you think that you’ve got to be in your 50s-60s-70s to be the longest-serving manager, but I was 41 - I’d only been a manager for seven years.

One of Bentley’s most memorable Morecambe moments came against one of his good mates, with his instrumental half-time teamtalk hailed as the ‘best-ever’ by Morecambe player Kevin Ellison, who knows a thing or two about team talks given that he’s spent 23 years - and counting) - playing the beautiful game.

“We played Chesterfield when they were managed by Paul Cook, a good mate of mine. They were the best side in the league and they came to Morecambe one Saturday and we were 3-0 down at half-time, and honestly it could have been eight - they absolutely battered us. 

“The players were probably expecting a bashing from me, and while it would have been easy to have gone in and ranted and raved, I could sense that the players were all tense with their heads down. It was only afterwards that Kevin Ellison said something in the paper about it being one of the best team talks he’d ever heard because we came back and won 4-3. It was unbelievable and cracking to be involved in. I’ll take a big pat on the back for that one!”

Bentley battled for a new deal in the summer of 2019 but nothing ever materialised. His frustrations then soared after it was revealed that one of the owners had publicly voted against him.

“There as a Facebook poll which asked whether I should be sacked. One of the owners voted that I should be, not knowing that his face and his name was going to flash up. When I was shown that I knew I didn’t have the backing and that was the final straw. I base myself on respect, hard-work, relationships and people so after that I felt the time was right to leave.

“It was 17 years of my life. All the biggest events of my life happened when I was at that club. Getting married, having kids, losing family members, it’s been a big part of my life and always will be.

“When I walked out the door for the final time as manager I thought that there wasn’t much more I could actually have done there.”

Bentley will now look to make more history in the FA Cup third round, and if fate has its way then, who knows, he could soon manage against his beloved Blues in the competition.

“I’ve said this in the past but it would be my dream job to manage Everton, it’s a long way away but if you can’t aim for the top then you shouldn’t be in the game. It would be the top job for me.

"However, at the moment all I’m focused on is my job at AFC Fylde, which I’m extremely passionate and excited about.”

Advert Disclaimer
Bettingodds.com is a free online resource which endeavour to provide helpful and useful content and odds comparison to its visitors. Please be advised that Bettingodds.com accepts affiliate commission from the companies appearing on the site, and agreed commission levels impact the location and order in which the companies (and/or their products) are presented on the website. Any ratings that appear on this site is determined by our subjective opinion of the brand but also based on market share and reputation, each brand's conversion rates, commission paid to us and general consumer interest. Company listings on this page don't imply our endorsement. We do not feature all providers on the market. Except as expressly set forth in our terms and conditions, all statements and warranties regarding the information presented on this page are disclaimed. The information, including odds, which appear on this site is subject to change at any time.
Bet £10 Get £30 In Free Bets
#AD 18+. Play Safe. New customers using Promo code R30 only, Min £10/€10 stake,  min odds 1/2, free bets paid as 3 x £10/€10, free bets credited after settlement of first qualifying bet, free bets will expire 30 days after the qualifying bet is placed, payment method/player/country restrictions apply.
Welcome Offer
#AD Bet £10 & Get £50 in Free Bets for new customers at bet365. Min deposit requirement. Free Bets are paid as Bet Credits and are available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.
Bet £10 Get £20 In Free Bets + £10 Casino Bonus
#AD New UK customers (Excluding NI) mobile only. £30 in FREE Bets (FB) as £20 in sports bets & a £10 casino bonus (CB). Min stake £10. Min odds Evs. FB applied on 1st settlement of any qualifying bet. FB 7 day expiry. 1 FB offer per customer, household & IP address only. Payment restrictions. 14 days to accept £10 CB, then active for 3 days. CB 5x wagering & max redeemable £100. Game restrictions apply. Cashed out/Free Bets won’t apply. 30 days to qualify. 18+. T&C's Apply. **18+. Prices subject to fluctuation and availability.  T&Cs apply
Bet £10 get £30 in Free Bets
#AD New customers on mobile only. 7 days to claim and stake £10 minimum bet at odds of 1.5 or greater to qualify. Free, void, cashed out or partially cashed out bets do not qualify. Max 3x £10 free bets credited on bet settlement. Free bets must be used on 4 or more selections with selection odds of 1.3 or greater. Free bets are non-withdrawable, and stake not returned with winnings. 7 day expiry. 18+BeGambleAware.org. T&Cs apply.
Bet £20 & Get It Back As Cash If It Loses
#AD New customers only. Place your FIRST bet on any market at odds of min 2.0 (EVS) and if it loses we will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £20. Only deposits made using cards will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply, 18+ begambleaware.org
Bet £10 & Get £30 In Free Bets
#AD 18+ New Customer offer. Place a min £10 bet on the Sportsbook on odds of min 1/2 (1.5), get £30 in Free Bets. Rewards valid for 30 days. SMS verification required. Only deposits via cards will qualify. T&Cs apply. Please Gamble Responsibly.
Money back As A Bonus Up To £40 If Your First Bet Loses + £10 Casino
#AD 18+ begambleaware.org. New customers only. Min deposit £10. Money back as bonus if first sports bet loses. Wagering requirements: sportsbook 3x at min. odds of 1.40 (2/5), casino 50x. Unless forfeited the sportsbook bonus must be wagered before using the casino bonus. Bonus expires 7 days after opt-in. Visit Unibet.co.uk for full T&C's.
Double the odds, any sport, any bet, any odds!
#AD 18+ begambleaware.org Only valid for new registrations to Grosvenor Existing members do not qualify, Bet must be placed using real money in combination with the Odds Boost Token, Offer applies to Sport bets only. Max stake is £10. Each way bets are a maximum of £5 each way (£10 total). Customers have 60 days after registration to use the Odds Boost token. T&Cs apply.
100% Profit Boost up to £100 (Mobile Only)
#AD New UK customers only. Claim by placing a min deposit £10 via "My Offers" page within 30 days. Skrill/Neteller deposits excluded. 7 days to stake max £10 in-play. Max. extra winnings £100.T&C's apply, 18+ begambleaware.org
Bet £10 Get £30 In Free Bets + 100 Free Spins
#AD 18+ New customers only. Opt in, bet £10 at odds 2.00+ within 7 days, no cashout. Get 3x £10 Free Bets, set events at odds 2.00+. Plus 100 Free Spins on Big Bass Bonanza, no wagering. Free Bets and Spins expire in 7 days. Card payments only. T&Cs apply. Please gamble responsibly.
Bet £10 Get £10 In Free Bets (APP Only)
#AD New UK, IE & Malta customers only. Min £10/€10 first deposit using Debit Card. Place a bet of £10 at min odds of 1.5. Free bets expire in 90 days. Full T&Cs apply.  18+. BeGambleAware.org, T&Cs apply.
£40 In Bonuses
#AD Place a qualifying £25 fixed odds bet at odds of 1/2 or greater. Qualifying bet cannot be placed in-play or cashed out early. A first free £5 fixed odds bet will be credited upon settlement of the qualifying bet. 4 x following £5 free fixed odds bets will be added to your account on consecutive days. Free bets and spins must be claimed within 28 days of opening. Free bet/spin stake not included in any winnings. Ts&Cs Apply. 18+ begambleaware.org
Bet £10 Get £40 in Bonuses
#AD New 18+ UK customers only. Register using the promo code WELCOME40, deposit and place first bet of £10+ on Sports (cumulative Evens+) within 7 days of registration. First bet must be on Sports. £30 in Free Bets and £10 in Free Spins (50x20p) credited within 10 hours of bet settlement. Free Bet stakes are not included in any returns. Bonuses have a 7-day expiry. Payment restrictions apply. SMS verification and/or Proof of I.D and address may be required. Full T&Cs apply.
Bet £10 get £15
#AD New customers only. 18+ begambleaware.org 1st Deposit, Min Deposit: £10, max £15 bonus, valid for 14 days, bets must be placed at a min. odds of 1/1 (2.00) or greater and be settled within 14 days of placement.T&C's apply.
Bet £10 get £10
#AD 18+ begambleaware.org, Welcome Bonus: This offer is for new customers only and is available once per household. Max. FreeBet amount: £10 Minimum Deposit and wagering on sport to activate the Free Bet is: £10 void/cancelled or cashed out bets do not count towards wagering to activate the free bet. Offer valid only to customers making a first deposit of £10 or more. T&Cs apply.
Bet £10 get £20
#AD New customers only, welcome bonus: 1st deposit, min deposit: £10, max £20 free bet valid for 14 days, bets must be placed at odds of 1/1 or greater and be settled within 14 days of placement. system bets are not eligible. Neteller, Skrill, and PayPal are not eligible. , 18+ begambleaware.org
50% Up To £50 Welcome Bonus
#AD 18+ begambleaware.org; New bettors get 50% of deposit up to £50; Once per household; Min deposit £15 (no Skrill/Neteller); Wager a total of 8 times deposit + bonus, with max qualifying bet stake equal to your initial bonus amount; Bonus expires after 60 days; Min odds of 4/5 on singles, or 2/5 per leg for acca; Some bet types excluded; See full terms.
Bet £10 & Get £30 In Free Bets + £10 Bonus
#AD Promo code: 30FB • Min deposit £10 • A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £10 • Min odds 1/2 (1.50) • Free Bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days • Free Bet stakes not included in returns • Casino Bonus must be claimed within 7 days and expires after 14 days • To withdraw any winnings from the Casino Bonus, wager the Bonus amount 40 times within 14 days • Withdrawal restrictions, payment methods, country & Full T&Cs apply. 18+ & Begambleaware
£35 Free Bet + 10 Free Spins
If your account has Sportsbook losses at the end of your first day's betting, QuinnBet will refund 50% of your losses as a Free Bet up to £35 (min 3 bets) Plus 10 Free Spins. Even if your account is up, you're guaranteed a £5 Free Bet Plus 10 Free Spins provided you place at least 1 bet of £10 or greater at the minimum odds. T&Cs apply | 18+ New UK Customers Only | BeGambleAware.org