2025/26 Season | 5 Years On – What Happened To FC IOM’s North West Counties League Div 1 South Title Winners of 2020/21

24th May 2026


As FC Isle of Man celebrate an unlikely promotion to the Northern Premier League, we look back to when it all began in the club’s debut season in the North West Counties League Division 1 South back in 2020/21.

5 years on and just 3 of the original squad remain with the club. The majority of Chris Bass’ original squad, handpicked from the Isle of Man domestic league, have now moved on with varying degrees of success.

Keeper Jordan Davidson holds a great story. When the club played it’s 1st ever game against Wythenshawe Amateurs, 17 year old Jordan was merely a spectator. Chris Bass decided to plum for a more experienced shot-stopper in Edwin Tepperik to begin as the club’s no.1. With the club effectively heading into the unknown, you couldn’t blame Bass for his thinking. However, 3 months in and after a succession of blunders from Tepperik, Jordan was thrown in and never looked back. Edwin Teperrik on the other hand only played a handful more games for the club.

Who would have thought 5 years on that the young 17 year old would go on to become the record appearance maker for the club (266 apps so far). Jordan has helped the team to promotion from the North West Counties League Division 1 South, North West Counties Premier Division and Northern Premier League Division 1 North West. He also picked up the Golden Glove award in that first season, keeping more clean sheets than any other keeper in the North West Counties League Dvision 1. Still only 22, the only thing standing in his way is the jump in standard as the club progresses up the pyramid.

DAVIDSON MAKING A VITAL SAVE ON HIS DEBUT AGAINST STOCKPORT TOWN

“I love it here at FC Isle of Man. The gaffer has backed me from the start.” – Jordan Davidson

Centre-back Alex Morris signed for FC Isle of Man under a storm of controversy. Being the 1st ‘non-islander’ to sign for the club. The dream was sold as ‘a club for the people of Isle of Man’ yet manager Chris Bass disregarded defensive talent already on the island to bring in Alex Morris from off the English mainland. Alex quickly formed a physically imposing partnership wit Matt Furness which was too difficult for most strikers in the North West Counties League Division 1 South to penetrate, the transfer looked a masterstroke in hindsight.

5 years and 213 appearances later, Morris is still here. Standing tall at 6’5″, Morris has been a key player in the spine of Bass’ teams, helping the club to 3 promotions along the way. Now 32 and in the final year of his contract, the upcoming 2026/27 season may well be his last on the island.

ALEX MORRIS HEADS HOME AGAINST CHEADLE HEATH NOMADS

“I understood why people questioned my move here at the start. I did my talking on the pitch and the people of Isle of Man have treated me as one of their own.” – Alex Morris

Not much has been written about striker Brian Esperance that hasn’t been said before. An absolute legend at FC Isle of Man. Brian got off the mark in the club’s 1st home game against Alsager Town and never looked back. Going on to score 46 goals in that title winning campaign.

Brian now has a ridiculous record of 248 goals in 250 appearances for the Ravens. he has worn the captains armband for the last 4 seasons and led from the front with his heart on his sleeve. Loved by the supporters (voted Player of the Season in each of the last 6 seasons) and the club’s top goalscorer in 4 out of those 5 seasons winning 2 Golden Boots along the way. Hell, even a broken hip that was supposed to keep him out injured for 8 months from February 2024 only saw him miss 8 games. Now 32, age is beginning to catch up with the Dutchman. Losing a yard of pace this season since his hip injury was noticeable, he wasn’t as deadly as before but still managed to notch 31 goals, his lowest return yet. Chris Bass will no doubt stick with his man next season in the Northern Premier League and this will no doubt be Esperance’s biggest test, but how long can he keep going for?

BRIAN ESPERANCE CELEBRATES HIS 1ST OF 248 GOALS FOR THE CLUB

”What can I say? It’s been like a marriage made in heaven, the perfect fit. The chairman always said he wanted to get the club into the Football League, I will do whatever I can to make that happen.” – Brian Esperance

In FC Isle of Man’s debut season, right midfielder and club captain Mikey Keogh was the poster boy for the new club. The all energy player played with his heart on his sleeve and embodied the values of the club. Scoring in 8 consecutive games he soon became a fan favourite. It’s amazing now to think that this lad kept Brian Esperance in the shadows during the first few months of that debut season.

A sports hernia injury in December 2020 de-railed his season and ultimately he was never the same player when he returned. 2021/22 was a disappointing one for Mikey and his place in the starting XI became under threat by the emerging homegrown talent of then 17 year old Wesley Magee. Mikey moved to Tuffley Rovers mid season in 2021/22 but suffered relegation from the Hellenic League Division 1 West before being released at the end of that disappointing season. Poor Mikey signed for Hardwicke in 2022/23 and again tasted relegation from the Gloucestershire County League to the Hertfordshire FA County Premier League and it’s beginning to look he is becoming a bad luck omen wherever he goes.

MIKEY KEOGH IN ACTION

“Those early months with FC Isle of Man were magic for me, the best football I had ever played, it was like walking on air. I felt almost like a celebrity on the island during that 1st season, it was an exciting time. I do miss home though and wherever I’ve been since has not been quite the same as FC Isle of Man.” – Mikey Keogh

Matt Furness, the 6’7″ giant centre-back, was a key component of FC Isle of Man’s debut season. Matt wrote his name into FC Isle of Man history by scoring the club’s 1st ever goal on that opening day in 2020/21 at Wythenshawe Amateurs.

The Scotsman was a big personality and stayed with the club for 3 seasons, helping the club to promotion from the North West Counties Premier Division. In all, Furness played 122 times for The Ravens up until 2023/24 and scored an incredible 30 goals such was aerial threat from set pieces, not at all bad for centre-back. After promotion to the Northern Premier League Division 1 North West in 2022/23, Matt felt it was time to return home to Scotland and declined a contract extension from FC Isle of Man. He signed for Golspie Sutherland of the North Caley League on . He won the league with Golspie in 2023/24 and then moved on to Ormiston competing in the East of Scotland League First Division Conference A.

MATT FURNESS WITH FC ISLE OF MAN’S 1ST EVER GOAL IN NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL

“I’d been in Isle of Man since my parents moved here when I was a teenager. At 30, I felt it was time to go back home, so I did just that. FC Isle of Man is a great club and I’m pleased to see them doing well. I always look out for their results as the fans were great to me.” – Matt Furness

At 21, Akeem Smith was a revelation after he signed for the club in November 2020 scoring 20 goals in just 25 appearances.

It’s a sad story for Akeem, many thought he could have forged a deadly long term partnership with Brian Esperance but his stay at the club and on the island lasted just 7 months. A fallout ensued with manager Chris Bass over squad depth and Akeem moved back to the mainland hoping for a better deal. No clubs came in for Akeem and he retired from the game at the criminally young age of 21. Akeem, now 26, works as a car mechanic in a repair garage in Nuneaton.

AKEEM SMITH QUIT FOOTBALL AND NOW WORKS AS A MECHANIC

“It didn’t quite work out for me in the end. I had a falling out with Chris Bass towards the end, I suppose I was just passionate about doing well and I wanted him to bring in some better players. Looking back, I didn’t quite ‘get it’ that it was supposed to be a club for the people of the Isle of Man. I left and had trials at some local non-league clubs but nothing concrete happened. I regret leaving Isle of Man but I’m happy now, earning a good wage. If you’re ever in Nuneaton and need a new exhaust fitting to your Ford Focus, come and seek me out, I do special Isle of Man rates.” – Akeem Smith

Left back Lee McNeil was a creative force in Bass’ 1st season supplying 12 assists from the left hand side.

Lee struggled as the club jumped up to the North West Counties Premier Division, not quite hitting the heights of his debut season. He stuck around as a squad player for the next 2 seasons but found himself completely frozen out following the arrival of Kane Bartholomew. Knowing he was out of his depth in the Northern League Division 1 North West, Lee followed in Matt Furness’ path and also signed for Golspie Sutherland in Scotland’s non-league in 2024/25 winning the league title that season.

LEE MCNEIL CELEBRATES A TITLE WIN WITH GOLSPIE SUTHERLAND FC IN SCOTLAND

“I knew I wasn’t really good enough to play at a higher level. I kept in touch with Matty Furness and he recommended Golspie Sutherland to me. I miss the buzz of playing in front of crowds of 700, 800 that we were getting at The Bowl, it’s one man and his dog here, but the main thing is I’m enjoying my football again.” – Lee McNeil

Midfielder Francis Gerrard played a key role in the deep lying playmaker position during that 1st season. Scoring 5 and creating 5 goals, he specialised in getting the ball to the more creative players out wide.

He lost his place the following season as Ollie Patrick emerged as Bass’ preferred option. The 2022/23 season saw Francis move to Albrighton FC in the West Midlands (Regional) League where he enjoyed a happy 3 seasons which included winning the West Midlands (Regional) League Cup in his debut season. In 2025/26 Francis moved to Barrow Town of the East Midlands Counties League where he suffered relegation.

FRANCIS GERRARD’S GOAL OF THE SEASON AGAINST VAUXHALL MOTORS

“It was a great honour to play in FC Isle of Man’s first season, the people of Isle of Man had worked hard for a club of our own for a while. Chris Bass selecting me for the initial squad meant a lot and I always gave my all.” – Francis Gerrard

Aged just 16, Paul Main was one of the younger members of Chris Bass’ title winning squad. A left winger who scored 8 times in 35 appearances for The Ravens.

The step-up to the North West Counties Premier League was too much for the young lad and he soon found himself 2nd choice behind the emerging Amilaly Kalie-Freeman the following season. Knowing his future lay elsewhere, Main moved back to Scotland to find 1st team football. Dundoland Bluebell were his first club back in Scotland. Moves followed to Clydebank, Fort William and he currently plays for Tynecastle of the EoS Premier. Sadly, he hasn’t hit the heights of his 1st ever season, only ever socring 1 further goal in the following 5 seasons.

MAIN GOT MANY ASSISTS BUT NONE AS IMPORTANT AS THIS ON THE FINAL DAY OF THE SEASON

“It was very staisfying proving to people that we could compete in the English leagues with FC Isle of Man. I’m proud of that league title medal and it sits proudly above my fireplace. I’m 21 now, my focus is getting Tynecastle promoted into the Scottish Football League. I’m loving city life here in Edinburgh.” – Paul Main

Missing just 2 games all season, right back Sven Bensmann earned the nickname ‘Mr.Reliable’ from his manager and fans alike. Sven made 44 appearances in 2020/21 more than other FC Isle of Man player.

The signing of Isaac Currie in the Ravens’ 2nd season, a more rounded wing-back than Bennsman, pushed the German down in the pecking order. He went on to make a further 19 appearances as backup to Currie in the following 3 seasons before Bass released him during the 2023/24 season. The native Isle of Man resident returned to the local leagues on the island the following season re-joining St.Georges.

BENSMANN SCORES A VITAL GOAL AGAINST ELLESMERE RANGERS

“It was nice to be a part of the creation of this fantastic club. Obviously I couldn’t compete with the quality of Isaac Currie, a player who began with a professional club like Burton Albion. I hold my hands up and admit I’ll never be as good as him for as long as I live. 2020/21 was a special season for me, my title medal sits proud at home.” – Sven Bensmann

Providing an impressive 12 assists during the 2020/21 season, young box-to-box midfielder Lincoln Nicholls at just 17 was one of manager Chris Bass’ highlights. The gaffer was proud to see a young lad from Douglas perform so well, it was all part of the masterplan to create a team of ‘islanders’.

Unfortunately, like many of the other younger players plucked from the playing fields of Isle of Man and thrown into senior football, the jump up to the North West Counties Premier League proved too much. Lincoln started the season as first choice but was unable to adapt and his creative influence was not to so great. He lost his position to Ollie Patrick, who excelled in 2021/22, but stayed to battle for his place back (unsuccesfully) until the 2023/24 season. He was released and returned to the local game, re-signing for Douglas Athletic.

LINCOLN NICHOLLS SHOOTS A FREE KICK AGAINST WEST CHORLTON & DIDSBURY

“I’d like to thank Chris Bass for choosing me for his initial squad back in 2020/21. I lost my way after that first season and found the local bars probably a bit too much instead. I’m back in the Isle of Man league now and I’m enjoying it, not taking it too serious like.” – Lincoln Nicholls

FM21

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