By Tony Leighton
Morecambe manager Jim Bentley has come down from one of the biggest highs of his football career to focus on an important season for his npower League 2 team.
Former captain Bentley, who joined the club in 2002 and as a player helped them gain promotion to and then establish themselves in The Football League, enjoyed the testimonial of his dreams as part of the Shrimps' pre-season programme.
Everton, the club he has supported from childhood, provided the opposition as a crowd of well over 4,000 turned out at the Globe Arena to honour one of the seaside club's all-time great stalwart performers.
Liverpudlian Bentley, who is preparing for what will be only his second season of management, told football-league.co.uk: "It was a dream come true to have Everton play against us and it was a fantastic day for me.
"We had a good crowd and a lovely atmosphere, my family were there to enjoy the occasion and I was able to walk out with my kid before the game - and then I got our goal right at the end of a 4-1 defeat by a strong Everton side. A great day."
Bentley's great day and his team's stern test against Premier League opponents has been followed by further demanding friendlies against the likes of League 1 sides Preston North End and Bury plus Championship outfit Bolton Wanderers.
A meeting with League 1 Sheffield United on Saturday will be Morecambe's final friendly before they kick-off the new campaign with an eagerly-awaited Capital One Cup local derby fixture at near neighbours Blackpool.
"We've never played Blackpool competitively," said Bentley, "so everyone involved with the club is really looking forward to it. It's going to be very tough against a top Championship team, but it's an occasion to savour and we'll give it our best shot."
Following their trip to Bloomfield Road, the Shrimps will be giving it their best shot to upset the League 2 odds by making a mockery of their tag as relegation favourites - this after some fine performances and a 15th place finish last season.
Bentley said: "We were favourites to go down last year, but we had some great results early on and were on top of the table for a month. Unfortunately, injuries took their toll and we slipped down the table, but it still wasn't a bad season.
"It was a big learning curve for me as a first-time manager, but I learned a lot and the experience will stand me in good stead for the future. One thing I know for sure is that this coming season might be harder than last year, but I'm prepared for that.
"We're a small club compared to some in the division and our budget's certainly not as big as some. I can understand why people put among the relegation favourites, but we've proved them wrong before and we can prove them wrong again."