‘Beauty Surrounds, Health Abounds.’ Or something. That’s what the text on Morecambe’s crest says. None of your usual, aggressive, patriotic, stand-offish mottos; not at Morecambe, no. Instead they offer you welcome, shelter, peace; come to Morecambe and refuel for the long season ahead! Welcome to the calm sanctuary of Division Four! Come and watch the football whilst breathing in that fresh sea air! Ooooh, it does your lungs good that…
Truth is, Morecambe are slightly different to most clubs in this division. In the olden days they would’ve never got anywhere near league football, but the opening up of the Conference/Division Four divide has let teams like Morecambe, Burton and Dagenham slip through the net (to use the first of hopefully few seafood-related puns littered through this guide). It’s not a bad thing; Morecambe have reached this level playing good football and winning matches, which is all that should matter in the end. They are a small club, but a good club. And, as a result, nobody dislikes them. Oh how Morecambe fans must hate that.
Morecambe FC were founded in 1920, in a hotel bar, by five drunken men with moustaches. It seemed a good idea at the time. They joined the Lancashire Combination in September ’21, but finished poorly in their first few seasons, languishing near the depths of the league. Against opponents such as Rossendale United, Chorley and Nelson’s reserve side, it was hardly a league of quality, and Morecambe remained small fry (pun no. 2) in an obscure league for decades. There sudden prominence is actually quite remarkable.
Relevant, reliable resources on Morecambe’s history are scarce on the internet, even Morecambe’s own website skipping over vast sections of their past as if nothing happened. Perhaps nothing did. Highlights from the 75 year period between 1920-1995 seem to boil down to a 1974 FA Trophy victory over Dartford at Wembley, and an FA Cup Third Round defeat against Weymouth in 1962. As far as I can make out, Morecambe spent much of their history playing in the doldrums of regional football, occasionally peeking out every ten years or so to get beat in the cup. They were still a tiny speck in league structure packed full of teams with shit grounds and no money. It all changed however in 1995, courtesy of the Conference’s ground requirements and a team from Liverpool’s under-funded stadium.
In ’94/95, Marine FC won the Northern Premier League, which was in those days a direct feeder into the Football Conference (it has been relegated recently due to the formation of the Conference North and South). Marine, however, didn’t satisfy the Conference’s ground grading requirements, and the league upheld their promotion and awarded their place to runners-up Morecambe. It was a stroke of fortune which Morecambe have not looked back upon. Marine FC are still in the Northern Premier League, three divisions below their usurpers.
In the Conference, Morecambe fared well under the watchful eye of Jim Harvey, finishing regularly in the top-half and reaching as high as 2nd in ’02/03, later beaten by Dagenham and Redbridge in the play-off semis – Dagenham subsequently lost to Doncaster in the final. In the ’05/06 season however, manager Jim Harvey’s heart packed in during a game against Cambridge (the only recorded occurance of Cambridge-related excitement) and his loyal friend Sammy McIlroy came in to cover for him. Morecambe liked McIlroy so much they forgot to re-hire Harvey. The two friends no longer speak; in fact, they don’t even Facebook each other. Surely an Employment Tribunal would have something to say about that, wouldn’t they?
It took McIlroy just one-and-a-half seasons to get the Shrimps promoted, defeating Exeter City 2-1 in the Play-off Final in 2007. Since then they’ve impressed in the Football League, and even have a new stadium on the way. Morecambe might be going places, and not just placed like Accrington. Like I said before; remarkable.
They didn’t score an awful lot, but they didn’t let many in either. Jim Bentley’s excellent marshalling of the Shrimps defence ensured Morecambe finished 11th, despite not having a regular goal-scorer; ex-Dale lump Rene Howe and Stuart Drummond jointly top-scored with 10. Despite yours truly suggesting Morecambe were “relegation fodder but for the three sides with points deductions”, Morecambe surprised many and finished the season strongly. Sammy McIlroy is a canny man, that’s for sure, and he let Morecambe play without risking goals away from home.
Optimism. Howe has gone, but Huddersfield have kindly lent Phil Jevons and Ian Craney for the whole season. They still have Bentley and Drummond, and the wonderful Barry Roche in goal; so that’s the spine of their side pretty much sorted. The depth of their squad would suggest a play-off place might be too much, but their first eleven places them firmly in the top-half. They could be 7th or 17th, depending on injuries. Jevons will score at least 15.
Morecambe the place?
Your mam and dad might have gone to Morecambe in the olden days for a traditional seaside holiday to sample the delights of fresh air, fresh cockles and fresh donkey turds. It used to have a couple of piers, but one burnt down and the other washed away, leaving Morecambe pierless (ho-ho!). Nowadays Morecambe is a small-ish town with a decent sea-front, like Blackpool but without the feeling of death. If you want you can visit that statue of Eric Morecambe you’ve seen a thousand times or even sample the night-life, which, depending on what day it is, would consist of either angry-looking locals or vomiting Lancaster University students.
The aforementioned Eric is Morecambe’s most famous resident, but actress Thora Hird hailed from there too; which is two brilliant actors more than most places. Diddy David Perkins also comes from the same area, (Heysham to be precise), and started his career at Morecambe FC.
Morecambe FC in a word?
Written by Matt Boothman on 26th July 2009.