Unfortunately, AFC Fylde manager Jim Bentley is not well enough to manage the Coasters at the New Bucks Head tomorrow after undergoing heart bypass surgery five weeks ago.
But, fortunately, the former Telford defender, hall of famer and son of all-time legendary goalscorer Jack, is ‘ahead of schedule’ on his road to recovery and improving every day following his severe health scare, writes Lewis Cox.
Bentley, 44, who played 181 games for Telford United between 1997 and 2002, is ‘50-50’ about attending the fixture to watch from the stands, opposite where the Jack Bentley Terrace is situated behind the dugouts shared by Gavin Cowan and Bentley’s No.2 Nick Chadwick.
“I’m doing alright, it’s been five weeks now, I’m ahead of schedule and up to an hour walk. I’m doing well, getting stronger and stronger and fitter and fitter each day,” former Morecambe boss Bentley told the Shropshire Star.
“It won’t be long now until I’m back in and among it.”
The Scouser is not yet back behind the wheel of his car, that milestone comes next week. He has only attended one Fylde training session, ahead of his side thumping Chorley 4-0 last week.
Chadwick has been in charge, but Bentley is in contact with his lieutenant, and the club, daily. He purchases matchday video streams to watch his side in action, minimising communication with the staff in games.
Despite the severity of his recent procedure, Bentley admits it was tough to switch off from his duties. He asked a nurse at 3am on a Wednesday morning, just hours after his operation, how his team had got on against Bradford Park Avenue the night before.
Bentley left Morecambe for Fylde in 2019 after 18 years with the Shrimpers. He moved to Morecambe as a commanding centre-half after leaving Telford in 2002, a couple of years before the club was wound up. He was a fans’ favourite in Telford white. Fans had a Bentley back in their side to cheer.
He was looking forward to a first management trip back at the town that means so much to him and his family. But that experience will have to be put on hold for now.
“I’d love to come back. I haven’t been back for ages,” added Bentley, who in 2011 followed in the steps of dad Jack in being recognised as a club legend.
“My eldest boy is called Jack as well, he’s never been to the ground, and my little one Max. My dad has the Jack Bentley Terrace. I want to go back because I’ve got really good memories.”
Telford remains an important part of the Bentley family. Prior to Covid-19, Jim’s mum Jean would visit the town regularly, to catch up with the late Jack’s best mate and former Telford colleague George Jagger, Mick Richards and a few others.
Bentley, who climbed into the Football League as a player with Morecambe before eight seasons as a manager, said: “Telford and the club has been ingrained into us as a family. We still speak to George Jagger, who was dad’s best mate and still lives in the area.
“One of my earliest memories was our family visiting George’s. My mum still visited Telford a lot, certainly before Covid, to see Mick Richards and George Jagger, people like that.
“I remember being on the embankment at the back of the terrace watching a game as a kid.
“My dad had a team called Mossley Hill, he took the young teams and I played for them. We’d go to Telford once a year and play a local team and my dad and his mates would play the Telford Vets. I remember going to the Bucks Head at an early age and staying overnight.
“He’s got a fantastic record there and we’re all proud of what he did, and to have the terrace and bar named after him.
“It’s always one of the results I look for and now, strangely enough, I’m managing in the same division. It was the first fixture I looked for.”
Bentley added: “Being an Evertonian, and spending 18 years at Morecambe when I left Telford, I’ve got Fylde, Everton, Morecambe and Telford as my four clubs.”
Jim was born in 1976, one year before dad Jack – who thrashed in a remarkable 431 goals in more than 800 Wellington and Telford games – left following 14 years of service.
He recalls an early memory, aged nine, being part of 11,000 Telford fans, alongside Jack, that travelled to his beloved Goodison Park for the historic FA Cup fifth round tie with Everton.
The Fylde boss admits he was taken aback as his dad, the club-record goalscorer, was mobbed by fans and autograph-hunters: “I remember thinking ‘God, my dad must have been some player at Telford’.”
Bentley was able to take in Telford’s clash at Bradford Park Avenue in November shortly before his operation. He said: “Telford won, it was nice just to hear the club’s name, I bumped into Mike Sheridan (club photographer) for the first time in 18 or 19 years, I always remember him and his dad Rollo.
“I still get texts from older guys in the area, Rob Cave the old vice-chairman, I’ve got good mates there, the likes of Stevie Palmer too.”
Bentley helped Telford to finishes of sixth and ninth in the Conference – prior to the days of the play-offs – in 2001 and 2002, as well as an FA Trophy semi-final.
His Fylde side are fourth in the National League North ahead of the trip to 12th-placed AFC Telford tomorrow, with six points separating the sides.
“When I left Man City I had a few options to go to different places,” Bentley said of the decision to follow his dad’s path as Telford player.
“Funnily enough I ended up training at Shrewsbury for a month or two, it looked like I was potentially going to sign there. I ended up playing at Telford and still training at Shrewsbury under Jake King.
“In the end Telford put something to me, nothing was happening at Shrewsbury, and I enjoyed playing at Telford so I signed part-time, training Tuesday and Thursday night.
“My dad had his own removal van, that was his business even when he played for Telford, just one man and his van.
“For a couple of years I worked every day with my dad, here, there and everywhere and travelled to Telford to train and play.”
The Fylde boss added: “I’m proud of myself to get into the hall of fame, proud of my dad for what he did there and it’s a place very close to my heart that helped shape my career.”