May 20th saw Morecambe take on Dagenham & Redbridge in the League Two playoffs. For the vast majority of the 4,972 crowd, thoughts of a Wembley final had been quashed a week earlier and this game was simply about ensuring a rousing send-off to 89 years of football at Christie Park.
From next season Morecambe will compete at their new £12million purpose-built Globe Arena. Boasting a capacity of 6,400 and excellent corporate facilities, the extra income generated will give Morecambe a chance to compete with the big spenders of League Two. Chairman Peter McGuigan spoke to SCAN and stressed the community benefits of the new development. He said: “The Globe arena will provide a high quality sporting and social venue.”
The plush surroundings of the Globe Arena will provide a stark contrast to the ageing Christie Park, now in its 89th year as Morecambe’s home. The stadium was first used in the club’s second season and was re-named in 1926 after the club’s benefactor JB Christie donated it to the club.
Morecambe struggled for success in their early years, but their fierce rivalry with Lancaster City was a highlight, with crowds of well over 3,000. The 1960’s saw what is regarded is the Golden Age in Morecambe’s history.
The Lancashire Combination league title was secured on four occasions and improvements were made to the ground including the construction of the main stand with 500 seats. The decade also saw a record 9,234 crowd for a third round FA cup tie by Weymouth in 1962.
Morecambe struggled during the 1980’s as Christie Park regularly played host to crowds of around 300 spectators. Finances in the Northern Premier League were tight for all clubs and Morecambe were no exception, with Christie Park remaining somewhat neglected. Slow progress was being made on the pitch, and some twenty years later Morecambe were on the cusp of history.
The 2006/07 season was historic for Morecambe as they defeated York at Wembley to win promotion to the football league guided by ex-Macclesfield manager Sammy McIlory. This saw arguably Christie Park’s greatest day as Morecambe hosted Barnet in the club’s first ever football league game. A spirited 0-0 showed that the Lancastrian club was capable of competing in England’s fourth tier.
The final season at Christie Park, dubbed the end of an era by the club, saw Morecambe complete their highest ever finish by finishing fourth place in League Two. Solid home form was the basis of Morecambe’s play-off charge with only 4 defeats all season. Fittingly, a home victory over Aldershot in the final league game of the season secured a play-off spot and guaranteed a final swan-song for the old ground.
Dave Artell secured a dramatic 2-1 victory for the Shrimps with a headed goal on 91 minutes in front of a packed North Stand; writing his name into Morecambe folklore in the process. If anyone was counting, the aggregate score was 7-2 to Dagenham, but their victory was overshadowed by the emotion that accompanied the final whistle in the final game at Christie Park.