Yesterday was a day that started like any other but ended with league leaders Scunthorpe asserting their authority over League Two to have many lower league fanscasting an envious eye in our direction.
While Rochdale and Burton, two promotion candidates themselves, were trying their best to keep hold of star players, the Iron were busy concluding deals to sign two Championship players on significant two-and-a-half year deals. Both new recruits were heavily involved in their respective team’s promotions to the Championship last season.
Now Paddy Madden and David Syers could make their full debuts for Scunny against Mansfield on Saturday in the fourth tier of English football.
Isn’t football a funny old game.
The capture of last season’s League One leading goal-scorer Paddy Madden has been met by something of a sense of disbelief from across the Football League. How could little ‘ol Scunthorpe afford to pay just under £300k to land the Republic of Ireland international and why he would join a League Two side?
In truth, it has come as a bit of surprise to even the most fervent Scunny supporter, we’re not used to this sort of positive activity in the transfer market either. New chairman Peter Swann, who replaced Steve Wharton in the summer, always stated that the plan was to put the side in a position where he could invest for the start of 2014.
It was announced after the club’s recent AGM that he had purchased shares worth £500k. It transpires that these funds are being used to sign players that will not only get us out of the fourth tier but will help also establish ourselves back in League One as the club, in the long-term, eye promotion back to the Championship. Spending a significant chuck of this budget on a proven goal-scorer determines our ambition and Madden even admits he was impressed with what the future holds for the Iron. Outbidding the likes of Preston, Rotherham and Leyton Orient to recruit the Yeovil Town striker comes as some statement.
Top of the league after a fabulous eight-match unbeaten run under caretaker come permanent manager Russ Wilcox, the Iron are in a perfect position to kick on. And at only 23-year-old, Madden represents something of a quality purchase for a League Two side.
He’s been described as something of a one-season wonder after the striker struggled to produce the same form in the Championship this season. But he scored 23 goals as the Glovers secured promotion in a higher division just last year making it quite the coup for a fourth division outfit. While most neutrals will laud the signing of Madden, those who have seen him play will know that Syers is the more significant signing for Russ Wilcox’s in-form Iron side.
With 5 goals in his 15 games on-loan from Doncaster, the 27-year-old has has been the catalyst for the free-flowing attacking football that we have witnessed of late. The former Bradford City man is capable of finishing chances, intelligent movement and imaginative through balls, a valuable asset for any team in the lower tier.
Losing him would have been a massive blow, but after Donny secured Richie Wellens on an 18-month deal, Swann swiftly returned to the Keepmoat to seemingly make an offer they couldn’t refuse with his contract set to expire in the summer. And Sheffield United’s Marcus Williams now looks set to become the third signing after an impressive loan spell at Glanford Park.
As such, all three add immensely to the Iron squad which we’ve always realised had potential for something big this season. Syers has been balanced against the robust Sean McAllister; captain Michael Collins; a fit-again Matthew Sparrow; and with highly impressive youngsters Terry Hawkridge and 17-year-old Hakeeb Adelakun to scare the life out of opposition defenders.
In attack we have the league’s leading goal-scorer Sam Winnall. He is ably supported by the evergreen Deon Burton, who at 37 is probably producing the form of his career, and back at Glanford Park, much-experienced Paul Hayes.
Wilcox can also be very satisfied with the centre-back partnership of David Mirfin and Niall Canavan while in goal Sam Slocombe is attracting higher interest with some commanding displays.
All this means that Wilcox has one of most talented squads in League Two at this disposal, with Madden providing the gloss to improve it further. If you were look back six months, the mere thought of Sparrow, Collins, Iwelumo and Dawson all becoming squad players at Glanford Park would seem ridiculous.
However the start of 2014 appears to have ushered in a new era at Glanford Park. No longer will it be little ‘ol Scunthorpe but with a new 12,000 capacity stadium the ‘Iron Arena’ on the horizon and an owner who is clearly willing to back hismanager in the transfer market, perhaps teams should start taking Scunthorpe United seriously.
Let me know your thoughts on what this means for The Iron on twitter @aidanmccartney