As the turnstiles slowly open back up to football fans across the country, Jim Bentley is excited to see the Coasters’ fans back inside Mill Farm when football resumes in July. 

It has been 408 days since the sound of fans swept around Mill Farm stadium, going all the way back to the 1-0 win against Aldershot in March 2020. Since then, football fans have had to follow their beloved teams through live streams and social media commentary. Jim Bentley admits that it has been a difficult period for all involved, but is glad that there is finally some light at the end of the tunnel. Speaking exclusively to, he said:

“Getting fans back into stadiums is massive. We’re starting to see some really positive signs now with the recent pilot tests, so I’m sure our fans are absolutely itching to get back watching football again. The matchday experience is so important, even more so at this level, not only for the fans but for the players too. As a player you want to play in front of people shouting your name, cheering you on, celebrating goals and wins. Fans just give everybody that added motivation; that extra ten percent. 

“People will see me as a manager, but I’m no different – I’m a football fan. I share everybody’s frustrations. It’s nice that I can go and watch my kids play on a Saturday morning at the minute, but I’m disappointed that I can’t watch my own team on a Saturday afternoon.

“It’s been highlighted a lot during all of this, but football is about the fans.

A selection of supporters back inside football stadia marks a significant step in the roadmap towards normality, following the reopening of parts of society. Rules around social gatherings have been lifted, a decision that Bentley believes will further enhance the team spirit and relationships that have been built over the past 12 months.

He said: “It’s nice that we are coming out of lockdown and things are relaxing on a social front. We’re a new group – we’ve got a whole new backroom staff and virtually a whole new playing staff, so sometimes you need those social events, whether that be a meal or a pint together, to come out of your shell and get to know each other away from the confines of a changing room.

“For the past year, we’ve been turning up, training, and going home. We haven’t been able to do the usual things like have breakfast and lunch together, or in some cases, travel together.

“It’s been very difficult to build relationships; everything has been built purely on the training pitch. I’m a big believer in building good relationships with one another and creating a strong team spirit away from the football environment. From experience, you do that by traveling together; the car schools; the social interaction; the nights and days out; the golf days – we’ve not been able to do that, but hopefully, we’ll have the opportunity to do so very soon.

The gaffer also had a message to the Coasters supporters who have been without their fix, and to the wider football community who have become disillusioned by the recent events that have taken place at the top end of the football pyramid.

“My message to the fans would be to come to our pre-season games and get that enjoyment again. Our aim is to give the community and our supporters a team to be proud of.

“All of the stuff going on at the top end of football has put a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, at a time when we should all be coming together. The game is gradually going away from the ordinary football fan, which is how I was brought up in the 70’s and 80’s around Liverpool. It was a religion back then and a game for the working-class person to go and watch their team. The Super League has been well publicised, but it’s been going this way for some time, with inflated ticket prices and wages; and all the different kick-off times.

“It’s important for clubs at our level that we get the local community behind us and we help people get back to normality again. They’ve missed a lot of football, which for many of them is their release.

“It will be really nice to see them all come back out and support their local club again. We’ve missed them.”