Chris Sumpter looks ahead to Saturday’s pre season friendly against local rivals Hull City and discusses how the Iron may line up on August 6th against Bristol Rovers at Glanford Park.
Nearly three months on from their final home game of last season – a hard-fought 1-0 success over Port Vale in front of a swelled April crowd – Scunthorpe United are back in action at Glanford Park on Saturday.
For the majority, it’s a first chance to have a pre-season look at the Iron, in what will hopefully prove to be a tasty affair against north bank rivals Hull City.
Normally such an occasion carries its fair share of excitement, if that’s the right word. But aside from the opportunity to return to spending a Saturday how it should be, in the pub and on the terraces (and not necessarily in that order!), there seems little to get worked up about.
I don’t think I’d have it any other way.
Friendlies have always been an opportunity to get a first glimpse of new signings. Over the past few years at the Iron, where mediocre rebuild seemingly followed an even more mediocre rebuild, there’ve been plenty of those.
But in what has been one of the most quiet off-seasons at Glanford Park for some time, this summer’s preparations should have been pretty reposeful.
Three new faces, in the face of previous years’ hyperbole, might have done little to boost season ticket sales. But on the back of the form that has followed since Graham Alexander took over as boss, for once United’s talking has, welcomingly, been done on the pitch.
With a routine win at Stamford, in which one of those new faces, Duane Holmes, bagged a brace, preceding a week-long training camp in Austria, which received some pretty thorough club coverage by the club, things are evidently kicking into life.
It will be nice though to get the opportunity to see how the players are shaping up first hand, especially if United will be sporting their new British Steel branded kit.
I read a piece at the beginning of this week suggesting there had so far been few clues as to what system and side Graham Alexander will pick for the curtain-raiser with Bristol Rovers on August 6.
Immediately I thought to myself ‘are any really needed?’.
Such was the swagger with which Scunthorpe ended the last campaign, it’s hard to see them deviating from the personnel who achieved six straight wins and came within a couple of goals of ousting eventually-promoted Barnsley from the play-offs. (No hard feelings, eh Tykes. Though think of us Iron fans travelling to Southend again when you’re on your way to Villa Park).
Too often in football, United included, there’s been the tendency to change the team for change’s sake. Alexander though has so far though shown no signs of being a tinkerman.
As August unfolds and the end of the transfer window nears, I’d like to see a couple more new faces – purely because of the change to loan rules this term, where Football League clubs, like their European counterparts have had to adhere to for some time, unable to do more business until January.
It’s been good to see 4-4-2 re-emerge as a formation force during the previous campaign – with Leicester City and Atletico Madrid proving two such champions of the system on the way to claiming a historic Premier League title and reaching the Champions League final respectively.
On the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, with Hakeeb Adelakun on one flank and likely Josh Morris or Holmes on the other, it can, for me, be a line-up to help the Iron meet the expectation that will undoubtedly accompany their League One campaign.
The rest of the team appears to pick itself.
Barring injuries, the back four and goalkeeper will be the same that finished the last term.
In the middle of the park it’s a three-way fight between Neal Bishop, Stephen Dawson and Jamie Ness for two central places – meaning Sam Mantom may have to bide his time for a start, especially as he doesn’t seem to have done much during pre-season for whatever reason.
Paddy Madden is a certain starter up front, though there is competition in the shape of Tom Hopper, Kyle Wootton and the returning Kevin van Veen, whose performances will hopefully be as impressive as his facial hair, when it comes to a playing partner.
With various different aims, including getting certain players more minutes than others, we probably won’t be able to glean much from the team that takes on Hull City.
But then that won’t be what the weekend is about.