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OPINION: McCall ticks all the boxes for Scunthorpe

Iron Bru get the lowdown on Scunthorpe’s new manager Stuart McCall and ask Bradford City fan Ed Goodall (@southernbantam) whether he is the right man to take Scunthorpe United forward.

Do you think Stuart McCall is a good fit for the Iron? 

Scunthorpe need three key things in their manager right now: experience of managing a squad recently experiencing high turnover; the desire to play the front foot, high-intensity football which particularly serves to make Glanford Park tight and intimidating; and leadership on and off the field.

McCall ticks each box with a giant green sharpie. At Motherwell, ‘Stuart’ routinely returned from summer to a dismantled squad. Moreover, he still repeatedly overachieved while flirting with the occasional Thursday evening in the UEFA Cup.

He repeated this trick with Bradford. Firstly, in the summer of 2016 amidst the context of new owners in the early dawn of the post-Parky era. More recently, last summer after the play-off final defeat. Ultimately, Stuart managed to leave Bradford in the play-offs, despite his dismissal.

His footballing style is akin to that of his style as a player; passionate, intense and high-octane. Expect a return to the football of late 2016, which took Scunthorpe to the top of League One. Lastly, there simply is no better and more experienced leader. World Cups, multiple club captaincies (including Rangers) and management roles at big clubs; Stuart leads from the front and never shies.

A lot of your fans seem to be wishing him well. What went wrong for him at Bradford?

McCall was seen by many fans as onto a hiding to nothing under the present ownership regime. Attempts to quash talk of discord between Stuart and Rahic ultimately failed. The working relationship was never meant to be sustained, and only one man could leave in the end.

After overachieving with an extremely poor squad for most of the season, injuries and a downturn in form combined with no backing in the transfer market led to a poor run of form, which the owners took the opportunity to act on. A recent poll of fans suggested 77% of fans think his time with us was a success. It’s plausible to suggest even more would have given him more time to turn things around.

It’s rumoured that Peter Swann had shortlisted Stuart McCall and another former Bradford boss, Simon Grayson, for the job. Do you reckon that the Iron made the right call?

Our experience of Simon Grayson was that of a man who simply thought he deserved to be somewhere better. Scunthorpe are a club who are often the subject of mercenary players, simply using them for a fat pay-cheque or a bargaining tool for a better deal elsewhere.

Others use the club as a stepping-stone, shown by departures this summer. At the top, Scunthorpe need someone who is proud to be the club’s manager. Having applied several times before, Stuart certainly fits this bill. He has also been highly complimentary of the team’s playing style in the past and the Swann family.

It’s also worth mentioning that Grayson’s style, while mostly effective during his career, is incredibly direct and turgid. It does not suit a club who have a fairly technical squad, with little manoeuvrability in the transfer market with the window already shut. I think it’s the right call.

Rory McArdle was McCall’s captain at Bradford. Our defence has looked a bit shaky so far this term, but your defence was very good under Stuart. How important will that partnership be if Scunthorpe are to do well this year?

Bradford’s first season under McCall with Rory at the heart of defence yielded (including the play offs) 44 goals conceded in 49 games. An excellent record. Although Stuart’s tactics begin with attack, this link is vital and will ensure ideas are quickly moved from the training field onto match day.

One of McCall’s biggest attributes is his knack of liberating players from the shackles of self-doubt. The confidence he bestowed on Mark Marshall is the main evidence of this, whose first season was no more than sporadic bench-warming. Stuart turned him into one of League One’s most dangerous players over a single summer.

Watching recent games, it’s clear that CBJ and Burgess are both particularly low on confidence. Their defensive worked lacked both conviction and responsibility. This should be one of the first things McCall addresses.

What football are we likely to see under McCall. Did he use particular favoured formation or tactics?

As described before, Stuart’s football starts with a focus on high-intensity. The ball almost always stays on the floor, although he isn’t precious about building from the back and at times his tactics can be more direct if required.

In his more successful first season, Bradford usually played some variant of 442 with Charlie Wyke as the leading number 9. We almost always had the bulk of possession (55-70%). Plenty of our build up involved our central midfielders getting control of the ball before moving into wider spaces and delivering the ball into dangerous areas.

His main area of weakness was his in-game management. Often he struggled to influence games through substitutes or tactics, though not for a lack of intervention and effort. It could be argued that this was down to the lack of quality on the bench. Stuart probably believed his best XI was already on the field. However, ineffective substitutions griped some fans during both his tenures.

At the end of the day, this is League One. No manager is flawless, and at least Stuart has the humbleness to learn from his shortcomings. I wish him the very best at Scunthorpe.


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Written by Will Montag

Will Montag is an English Literature graduate of Manchester Metropolitan University. He is an avid reader of fiction, and a lifelong Iron fan. Will enjoys various outdoor pursuits in his spare time.

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