388 appearances and 81 goals make Kevin Ellison a legend at Morecambe.
Wherever the firey scouser has been, he’s been loved. Whenever he has left, he’s usually been loathed, but at 41-years-old, much of that has evaporated now. Fans who have loved to hate him in the past respect him for his longevity, his commitment and perhaps his persona.
Football is a pantomime, we need heroes and we need villains. With his Voldemort haircut and wind-up antics, Ellison has been the perfect villain. However, over time, most fans have come to respect the role he has played, not only for Morecambe but also in the wider game.
If you support a team in the lower leagues, you will have come up against Ellison. He’s probably scored against you, celebrated in front of you and drawn expletives from your otherwise saintly lips. That night have been two decades ago, it might have been last season, that’s how much he has given to the game.
He played his first game of senior football back in 1999 with Altrincham, before iPhones and when the singles chart was made up of actual CD sales as opposed to downloads. By coming on in Morecambe’s New Year’s Day game, he became one of the only players to appear in four different decades (90s, 00s, 10s and 20s).
It is why it is so upsetting now to see how he is being treated by Morecambe and new manager Derek Adams. Remember, when Jim Bentley left the team, Ellison was put in charge as a caretaker. He’s given his life and soul to that club and is one of the reasons they’ve survived year on year. His drive rubs off on his teammates and he’s been a leader, inspiration and key cog in their consistent league football.
Sadly, recent Twitter posts from him show he’s been frozen out at the club he has given so much to. He’s posted an example of how he’s been made to train on his own, cast aside by the club he has given his later years to. Former professionals and teammates of Ellison’s have been queuing up to offer their support: Billy Paynter, Jon Parkin, Lee Trundle, Anthony Gerrard, and Padraig Amond to name but a few.
We have decided to throw our voice out there too. As fans of ‘real’ football, the clubs supported by local people and driven by characters like Ellison, it is upsetting to see how he is being treated. Okay, Derek Adams might not fancy him as a player, but to push him onto the outside like this is abhorrent behaviour. At 41 Ellison should be enjoying his final season (possibly, maybe not) transitioning to a backroom role, not alone on astroturf away from the teammates he has helped drive to their Football League status. Derek Adams might not have taken over a Football League side were it not for the midfielder’s input.
We’ve not spoken thus far about Ellison’s work in mental health; to a degree that isn’t relevant here, but it serves to underline the stature of the man. He always came across as a tough bugger, not a care in the world nor a worry to look forward to, but he spoke out freely about his struggles. Okay, that shouldn’t impact any decision the manager makes around his team selection, but it does underline how important Ellison is as a role model. For Morecambe’s young players, he serves as an example of how to do everything right; how to fight, how to look after yourself, how to admit and deal with mental health issues and how to be loyal.
He says in his tweets he didn’t expect to play again after being caretaker manager, that’s fair enough, but after almost 400 appearances and playing well into his forties, he certainly doesn’t deserve to be stood around on an empty pitch with a solitary ball for company.
Morecambe are perhaps in a tough position. If they come out and openly back their player, they undermine the manager. Derek Adams is doing a good job of keeping them out of the bottom one again (they’ve only lost two in eight), but at what cost? The Shrimpers have always been a side other teams like to see survive, an example of how hard work and togetherness can triumph over bigger budgets, but with Ellison frozen out many neutrals might begin to see them in a very different light indeed.