Monsieur Salut writes: this edition of Who are You? appears out of sequence, with a league cup game to be played tonight at home to Sheffield Wednesday, and Guess the Score will also look out of place when posted later (but before tonight’s game). our Scunthorpe United volunteer, Matt Blanchard*, the editor of Iron-Bru.co.uk, reckons well over 1,000 Scunny fans will make the trip north to the Stadium of Light for Sunday’s game, in theory one SAFC ought to win though Matt – who will be there – believes a 2-2 draw is on the cards …
Salut! Sunderland: after decades of mostly lower league fare, Scunthorpe enjoyed a spell in the Championship until 2011 and, despite harder times since, bounced back and reached the playoffs last season. How confident are you about this season, especially after a win at promotion-tipped Coventry in the first game?
Matt Blanchard: despite falling short of our ultimate aim of promotion back into the Championship, we’ve had two relatively successful seasons. The win at Coventry was heartening as this team has had very little time to train together with a number of incomings arriving just before that game.
They struggled to get going against Walsall and will ultimately need time to gel but there are plenty of positive signs and I think we will be a real handful for any team in this division when they get to know each other.
I am a bit worried that our defence may let us down when push comes to shove as we have lost two key defenders in Murray Wallace who went to Millwall and Conor Townsend who moved to West Brom and our experienced keeper Matt Gilks is a long term absentee which means the defence is now pretty inexperienced and haven’t played much together.
In terms of additions, Ryan Colclough has joined from Wigan, we’ve got James Perch who has played at a higher level for the majority of his career and some really exciting young talent in Steve Humphrys and Andy Dales who have already shown they could be real assets. Whilst a play off finish is still clearly the aim, it is difficult to know whether this squad are as good as the previous two seasons and my head says we might just fall sort.
Peter Swann’s the owner, Nick Daws the manager. A good pairing to have at the top and how far can they take you?
Swann’s aim has been to get us into the Championship, but we have just fallen short three years running having lost in the playoffs for the last two and missing out narrowly on a play off spot the year before. He’s thrown a lot of money at it, particularly in wages and there is a worry that isn’t sustainable.
In Daws, we have a calm, collected manager who deserves a shot in charge. He never let us down in temporary charge and his record is really good. We’ve missed two really good opportunities to get promoted, especially two seasons ago when we should have probably won the League had it not been for Graham Alexander’s tinkering and you get the feeling its becoming harder and harder to get out an already tricky division.
I think all fans would accept stability in League One with regular flirts with the Championship, but it’s about time we got the job done rather than bottling it when push comes to shove.
We’re having to get used to unfamiliar League One players – our own included – and when I looked for the Teesside lad (Neal Bishop), whose wife was in The Apprentice, I saw he’d moved on. But you have useful-looking loan players from Fulham, Man Utd and Leicester. Who are the key players and where are you still weak?
Defensively I think we are a bit frail and this could come back to bite us. Key player is Funso Ojo who is simply too good for League One. We picked him up on a free transfer from the Dutch Premier League and he instantly became a fans favourite. He is former PSV player and changed the game when he came on at Coventry – but he has been struggling with injury and it’s touch and go whether he makes it on Sunday.
Is glory-seeking a problem in Scunthorpe, with young lads buying big club tops, or does the local club command a good slice of support and pride in the town.
We have a core support of 3,500-4,000 and despite our relative success this has not really changed over the past 10 years or so. I think there is definitely an issue as some of the football we have played in that time should have seen more through the gate.
The club could do more to help though. Releasing chavvy replica kits and tacky merchandise does nothing to help the image of the club and there is a big foreign population that could be tapped into. Our away followings are always superb and when looked at as a percentage of the town’s population we are up there with the best supported clubs in the Football League.
Who are the best players you’ve seen – or wish you’d been old enough to see – in your claret and blue?
Peter Beagrie was something else. He was a very special player and he was unbelievable for us, particularly in League Two! He turned players inside out before going back and doing it again. Sensational.
And who should have been allowed nowhere near Glanford Park?
Rob Jones. He commanded our biggest ever transfer fee and was absolutely diabolical.
Best moments as a supporter?
Cliff Byrne’s header that snatched a play off spot from Tranmere and subsequently winning Millwall at Wembley was a very special couple of weeks and the euphoria inside Glanford Park when that went in will probably never be topped. It was electric.
‘Let’s see how these overpaid moppets cope on a cold January afternoon at Scunny’ – Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times. Leaving aside the fact that we hope the overpaid moppets will all have gone by then, is that how other League One sides probably view Sunderland?
It’s been pretty amazing to watch the dramatic slide down the Leagues. I seem to remember we played you in a pre season game last year and it was clear that there was only one way you were heading even at that early stage. For most of us, we are looking forward to visiting a new stadium and I’m sure we will turn out in numbers for it with around 1,000 tickets sold as it stands.
Hand on heart, where will our two clubs finish this season?
I think we might just miss out on the playoffs, whereas I would expect you to rise to the top eventually and get promoted.
The World Cup – glad it’s over and league football is back, or a strong of good memories that will linger?
It certainly seemed to galvanise the country and there are some very positive signs for our young side, but nothing beats travelling the country to watch the Iron!
The Neymar Question: is cheating prevalent in League One, will VAR sort it out? Or do purists make too much of a fuss about it?
There is certainly a bit of cheating going on but the worst thing is the standard of referees. Some of them are absolutely terrible. I think we are a long way away from VAR in League One, but if it is going to be used surely it should be across the board?
Will you be at our game? If so, is it seen as a hig day out for Scunny fans? And what will be the score?
Yes, we are certainly looking forward to it. It’s the only stadium in League One I need to tick off the list and it’s very rare we get to go to a new stadium these days unless it is in the cup competitions. I think it will be a score draw, 2-2.
Matt is the editor of Iron-Bru.co.uk – the Scunthorpe United fansite and forum.
Interview: Colin Randall