Meeting the opposition – Scunthorpe United F.C

Scunthorpe United – ‘meeting the opposition’

This weekend, Keith Hill’s Tranmere Rovers travel to Scunthorpe United in the aim of improving their automatic promotion chances and putting past on the road nightmares to bed. Scunthorpe have their own aims, they will want to steer away from the relegation zone before they have any chance of being sucked into the cesspit of worry. Thus, ahead of this League Two encounter I spoke to @tobyskelt0n about all of United’s on and off pitch subject matters before discussing the pre-match topics amongst others.

How long have you been a Scunthorpe United supporter and when/how did you first come across them?

Being from Scunthorpe and having family who support Scunthorpe United, I’d say I’ve been a fan my whole life. My mum often took me to matches when I was very little and I’ve been attending most games ever since.

Highest and lowest points across that time?

For me personally, the highest point was winning the League One play offs in 2009 to reach the Championship. We were massively outnumbered in terms of support against Millwall, but we came away with a 3-2 win and I’m sure it’s a day that will live long in the memory of all Scunthorpe fans. The lowest point was going all the way down to Plymouth on the last day of the season in 2019, losing 3-2 and confirming our relegation to League Two. That season was terrible throughout, and this final game only accentuated it. It was a very long journey home afterwards too.

Random fact about the club?

Kevin Keegan started his career at Scunthorpe.

What were your expectations going into the season and what are they now the campaign’s coming to an end?

My expectations were just to stay in the league. After finishing 20th last season, and having a largely underwhelming summer in terms of transfer business, I would definitely have taken survival in League Two this season. We currently sit 18th, almost unable to go up or down. We’re currently 10 points above the relegation zone which, barring an incredulous turn of events, should be enough for us to stay up. So overall, I am largely content with how the season has turned out.

Neil Cox is Scunthorpe United’s manager; he was appointed last year following two assistant manager spells under Neal Ardley at AFC Wimbledon and Notts County respectively. Thoughts on him?

As Cox is actually from Scunthorpe and played for the club, he already established a more positive relationship with the fans. Considering this is his first full season as a manager, he’s done very well. We’ve had many injuries to some of our key players recently, and despite that, we’re still way above the relegation zone. So all things considered, there can’t be many complaints directed towards Cox.

Who are the club’s owners and what are your thoughts on them?

The club chairman is Peter Swann. He initially invested heavily when he first came to the club, and got us into consecutive League One play off semi finals in 2017 and 2018. However, since then, he’s had to cut the cloth according, as our spending was very unsustainable. The current business model is to develop young players and push the wage budget down. This will be a long-term plan, but personally I am optimistic about it, as it will safeguard the finances of the club for the future. The chairman has always spoken honestly with fans, especially on local radio and fans’ forums, and this transparency is very much welcomed, especially when most owners rarely have any dialogue with fans anymore.

Your danger men?

In our last two matches, we’ve scored 0 goals and only conjured up a mere 2 shots on target, so identifying a target man is rather difficult at this moment! Fans favourite Kevin van Veen is injured and first choice striker Ryan Loft has looked rather uninspiring recently, so the danger men would probably be our wingers Alex Gilliead and Abo Eisa. On their day, both can tear up any defences at this level, but inconsistency, especially with Eisa can be a problem. Expect Gilliead to be running at your full backs throughout the game.

The last time the two clubs met was last October. Rovers won that game, at Prenton Park, 2-0. Thoughts on that encounter?

Not a game that was especially enjoyable as a Scunthorpe fan. Apart from the goal, the first half was largely uneventful. In the second half, Rovers maybe should’ve scored more than just one more. We had very few clear-cut chances ourselves, so we couldn’t complain too much about the result.

How do you see the upcoming game panning out? (Score prediction) and why, if you do, do you think that the game will pose more questions than the previous meeting did?

I’m not expecting much from us from this game if I’m honest. Our performances against Carlisle and Crawley were both below par, and carving out any real decent chances have been few and far between. We’ve not really got anything to play for, and with a few key players being injured, I can see a win for Rovers. I’ll go for another 2-0 Tranmere win.

What starting eleven do you think Cox will select?

With injuries to our first-choice keeper Mark Howard, defenders Junior Brow, Harrison McGahey and George Taft, creative midfielder Jordan Hallam and striker van Veen, our squad is already quite thin. In addition, winger Devarn Green and defender Manny Onarise are doubts for the game too, so we really are down the bare bones. I’d envisage the line up being something like:

Watson, Howe, Clarke, Bedeau, O’Malley, Karacan, Beestin, Gilliead, Eisa, McAtee, Loft.

Thoughts on Tranmere? The club in general.

They’re a big club at this level. Very nice stadium and passionate fans. Although arguably, you shouldn’t even be in this league, after being unfairly relegated on PPG last season. I’ve seen there’s been a bit of backlash against manager Keith Hill recently, which is understandable after recent results.

Thoughts on Scunthorpe’s winter transfer business? That plays a good role, more often than not, in instilling hope and some fire into a team with a goal.

In all fairness, not much happened in the winter in terms of transfer business. We did sign Jem Karacan after a successful trial, and managed to tie down George Taft to a permanent deal after his initial loan from Bolton. In terms of departures, only three loan players departed the club. Karacan has made a substantial difference to the squad though, having that experience in the middle of the park has been vital.

Two players that are currently on your club’s squad list may come up against their former team this weekend, Junior Brown and Devarn Green. How have they done in their time with the Iron?

Junior Brown has been okay, nothing special but he is one of the older heads at the back and his presence largely goes under the radar. He lost his place to Mason O’Malley earlier in the season, who is a much more adventurous and attacking left back in comparison to Brown. He has been injured as of late too, and it’s unlikely he’ll be offered a new contract this summer. Devarn Green on the other hand has been very exciting. He’s been getting regular game time and has shown fans his lightning pace on the wings and his desire to run at defenders gets fans off their seats. If he manages to add a few more goals to his game, he could be a real key player in the future.

Left back, who can also operate in midfield, Junior Brown played for Tranmere nine times in the season that they were relegated to League Two .. not demoted. This weekend, he will be hoping his side can cause problems for Rovers which is something that he did when being sent off in a vital game against Bradford City at Prenton Park.

Thank you very much for reading,

Stay safe,

Ethan Hoijord 

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