NCM L2 Predictions - 3rd
Feature by Jacob Daniel
Updated Thursday, 6th August 2009
MorecambeWe're into the automatic promotion places now with our League Town predictions and today we go for Sammy McIlroy's Morecambe...
It was a fairly uneventful second season in the Football League for Morecambe, who were pretty much the division's most mediocre mid-table side. Never in danger of relegation or promotion, Sammy McIlroy's side plodded along in the middle before securing a top half finish of 11th, which was a decent achievement for such a small side. Having lost Garry Thompson to Scunthorpe United in pre-season, McIlroy had to cope with the loss of one of his most important players, but the Shrimps adapted well and had a fairly similar one to their 07/08 campaign.
The new season respresents something of the end of an era for Morecambe, with the club set to leave Christie Park at the end of the campaign. McIlroy and his side will be hoping they can give the ground a great final season and many have pinpointed Morecambe as one of the possible dark horses this season. This is mainly due to two recent eye-catching loan signings from Huddersfield Town, midfielder Ian Craney and forward Phil Jevons.
Having made around 350 appearances for Manchester United as a player, Sammy McIlroy has had a more humble career as a manager. Having cut his teeth in the non-league circuit, he spent time at Northwich Victoria before taking the reigns at Macclesfield Town, where he spent seven years. He is still a legend at Moss Rose, having taken the SIlkmen into the Football League for the first time. He also won an FA Trophy in his time with Macclesfield, beating local rivals Northwich 3-1 at Wembley. McIlroy then went on to have a difficult spell managing Northern Ireland, where he struggled with a poor side, before returning to the Football League for a spell at Stockport County. He had a short and unsuccessful spell with the Hatters which culminated in his sacking following a humiliating 6-0 defeat at his former club, Macclesfield Town.
After leaving Stockport, he replaced Jim Harvey as manager of Morecambe after a spell as temporary manager following Harvey's heart attack. Having led the Shrimps to the play-offs in his first season he was given the job full time and in his first full season he once again took Morecambe to the play-offs, where this time they reached the Football League for the first time. McIlroy famously slipped when celebrating on the Wembley turf following Danny Carlton's late winner against Exeter City. Since coming into the league with Morecambe he has led them to two consecutive mid-table finishes and will now be hoping to push on towards the high end of the table this year.
Morecambe have a squad that is healthy in terms of both numbers and quality, which means the Shrimps are the team to watch in League Two this year. In goal Barry Roche has rebuilt his career brilliantly at Christie Park having been hounded out of Chesterfield with youth team product Scott Davies providing cover. At right back McIlroy has tempted Darren Moss to leave Shrewsbury Town to join Morecambe, meaning he has acquired one of the division's most consistent performers. In the centre big Jim Bentley is the club's captain and a talismanic figure for the Shrimps and he is likely to be partned by either the solid Dave Artell or Andy Parrish, formerly of Bury. Irishman Henry McStay has also been converted into a centre back and could find himself playing more often. At left back McIlroy has pounced to sign Laurence Wilson from Chester City, a former Mansfield loanee who was one of few City players from last season capable of making it in the league.
On the right of midfield, experienced former Darlington man Neil Wainwright impressed last term and still has the tricks to be a threat at this level. A clutch of players who have become part of the furniture at Christie Park make up most of the midfield, with Stewart Drummond having refound form back at Morecambe after a spell at Shrewsbury. Garry Hunter has made over 100 league appearances for the club, as has Craig Stanley. All are dependable performers, but new boy Ian Craney will be looking at a starting berth thanks to his driving runs and creativity. New £20,000 signing Mark Duffy, from Southport, impressed at the end of last season with a goal against the Magpies and could be one to watch on the left wing. Upfront, Morecambe will be relying on Phil Jevons for goals. Jevons has scored goals before for Grimsby and, more recently, Yeovil Town and will be looking to recreate that form with the Shrimps. Michael Twiss is one of the division's most talented players but needs to find more consistency whilst youngster Aaron Taylor will be hoping to establish himself. Wayne Curtis has scored nearly 100 goals for the club and can also do a job for McIlroy.
Morecambe have taken a different approach to many League Two clubs by letting a squad gel and get to know each other, whilst adding genuine quality in areas where it is required. McIlroy has been patient since promotion and by slowly building up his squad and keeping most of his key players at Christie Park, he is now in a position where he has a side capable of gaining promotion. If the likes of Jevons, Craney and Moss can fit seamlessly into Morecambe's system, then they have a real shot at automatic promotion.