Not So Great Expectations
Scunthorpe seem reasonably well placed ahead of their second stab at Championship survival in three seasons. The Lesser Spotted Lincolnshiremen’s last attempt was foreshadowed by Billy Sharp’s defection to Sheffield United (itself preceded by strike partner Andy Keogh’s exit), but the Iron should be a little more confident this time around, with their play-off winning squad likely to remain intact.
Manager Nigel Adkins is earning a reputation for affording developing talent the opportunity to flourish, and his most advanced apprentices, Gary Hooper and Martyn Woolford, will no doubt figure centrally. Both players had enjoyed their best spells at non-league level prior to the start of last season, but they combined to spearhead Scunthorpe’s promotion to the Championship and both will be worth watching. In fact, I’ve been following Woolford for some time since I was told that his mother, who works with my girlfriend’s aunt as a nurse in Hobart, Tasmania, had returned to the UK for an indefinite period to support her son’s ambitions to play in the top-flight. Such talk seemed grandiose at the time, but if his match-winning performance in his team’s 3-2 Play-Off Final win is typical of his game, then he will emerge as a name in next year’s Championship. Pacy and full of energy, his clean strike and inviting cross were the difference against Millwall.
Characterized by an ability to lithely transform defence into attack, Scunthorpe are a welcome addition in a league where a thoughtful and incisive approach is respected. Rewarded it is often not, though, and Adkins’ Summer purchases hitherto reveal a preoccupation with defensive reinforcements. I can’t pass comment on record buy Rob Jones, who at 6ft 7” should stand out one way or another on the Iron’s travels, or Michael O’Connor, but the capture of Josh Wright bodes well. Along with the impressive Simon King, the cherub-faced teen was the stand out player in last season’s League Two Play-Off Final; ever keen to whip a 40-yard pass to the wings, the sleek defensive midfielder ought to be an asset in a team boasting the pace of Hooper and Woolford.
Despite the promise that Scunthorpe show in the transfer market, most fans will have them down as strugglers in a league replete with seasoned Championship-goers and a North Eastern Royal. They are light on experience, so the next year will be something of a lottery, but other clubs should discount them at their own peril. Their unfashionable Glanford Park home will be key, and if they can make it a difficult place to visit then this youthful group could well raise an eyebrow.