In 2021/22, Morecambe will play five Clubs they have never previously faced in EFL fixtures – Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland AFC, Charlton Athletic, Ipswich Town and Wigan Athletic.
The club with the lowest budget in last season’s Sky Bet League Two will attempt to thrive one step higher up, armed only with award-winning matchday pies that were once sold in Harrods and a family feel that continues to be its most valuable asset.
The playing fields of Lancaster University have served as Morecambe’s training ground in recent seasons, while average crowds have only recently inched past the 2,000 mark.
Promotion courtesy of an extra-time penalty in the Sky Bet League Two Play-Off Final means that they are likely to double this season as the 1,900-capacity away end at the Mazuma Stadium is filled with Tractor Boys, Mackem voices and Pompey chimes.
New stories will be added to the romantic tales recounted by the heads of the Morecambe family, Co-Chairmen Rod Taylor and Graham Howse, who have been involved with the club since the Northern Premier League days of the 1990s.
“I remember we played Emley away in the first round of the FA Cup one year,” Taylor recalls. “We lost on penalties and one of our star players at the time, Brian Healey, drove out of the car park but didn’t notice a four-foot drop. His car was left hanging like a see-saw on the edge of it.”
“There was another occasion when we were coming back over the moors from Spennymoor,” Howse counters.
“Rod’s got a couple of nursing homes and we used to go to away games in the nursing home minibus. It failed to make the return journey that day, so we were all sat on the moors with snow and sleet, all sorts of weather, coming down, waiting for a pick-up vehicle to come and rescue us. But we were still pleased with the day out because we’d won.”
In the 1960s, locals would buy a share of Morecambe to gain entry into a supporters club attached to the ground which raffled off a new Mini every week.
Then there was the time when the club’s mascot costume of Christie the Cat was stolen amid the mayhem of the club’s final game at their former Christie Park home in 2010 and the club was issued with a ransom demand for its safe return.
Prolific former striker John Coleman - now the Accrington Stanley manager and scorer of over 500 goals in non-league football – once scored twice in a game, then went in goal and saved a penalty after the Morecambe keeper had been sent off.
Coleman topped it off in the dressing room after the match with his party piece, a word-perfect rendition of Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’.
“John’s still a hero at Morecambe now,” adds Howse. “The important thing is that we are a family club and we have tried to keep that family ethos from when we were a non-league side.
“When the guy who used to dress up as the mascot moved on, I persuaded my wife Helen to wear the outfit for a few weeks.
“There was one game when she was behind the goal and you could see the cat’s head slumping forward with the volume of rain that came down that match. She was almost bent over.
“Both Rod’s and my kids have been brought up at the football ground. We had them working the turnstiles. My son Oliver used to operate the scoreboard. He’s one of the club’s physios now. Rod’s daughters work in the shop and help out in the summer.
“Our song is ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ and we are having more and more of that in recent times. We’ve been to the likes of Goole and Worksop. To now be playing Sunderland in the same league is mind-blowing.”
Both men laud previous managers Jim Harvey, Sammy McIlroy and Jim Bentley for the laying the foundations, including promotion to the EFL in 2007, upon which Derek Adams built last season’s success.
There have been difficult times, too, with a number of ownership and financial issues in recent years, but new manager Stephen Robinson will at least have stability, if not a huge budget, on his side for the club’s debut Sky Bet League One campaign.
“Sometimes you do think: ‘What are we doing this for?’ But we do it for the love of the club,” says Taylor.
“We know a lot of the fans by their first names because they’ve been coming here for years. A hardcore travel all around the country and to be at Wembley with family was so meaningful. It’s a labour of love.”