Scunthorpe United Season Preview: small squad

With the 2018-19 League One season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Scunthorpe United fan Matt Blanchard from Iron-Bru (@ironbru_net)

Nick Daws’ record in his two spells in caretaker charge would accumulate 83 points over a whole season. You must feel he and Andy Dawson have earned the permanent gig?

Yeah they certainly have done enough to earn the gig permanently and I really hope that they succeed however I do have my doubts as to whether we will be able to replicate the relative success of the previous two seasons. My worry is that as yet they have not been as we well backed as previous managers like Mark Robins and Graham Alexander who undoubtedly threw a lot of money at players particularly in wages and the signings so far are underwhelming to say the least.

The major concern looking at your squad is the lack of depth. If injuries occur, you’ll surely have to lean on the youth academy or act in the loan market more often than you’d ideally like?

At the moment that is absolutely the case. We’ve lost Murray Wallace, Hakeeb Adelekun and also squad players like Neal Bishop and Tom Hopper without replacing them with like for like quality. It also looks like Conor Townsend might be heading back to Hull so we are definitely thin on the ground. Central midfield is a particular area where we need to improve and if Townsend does go, it leaves us short at left-back with youngster Lewis Butroid the only other option. We have a few good prospects coming through the youth academy, but I’d expect us to have a couple of loans in before we start the campaign particularly if we fail to land other targets.

Full-backs Jordan Clarke and Conor Townsend had been key to your form during Daws and Dawson’s previous spells in charge. You must feel more comfortable with natural full-backs in the side?

Both full backs are excellent but both do have their fair share of injury issues. Clarke is a really important player in the side though and it’s great news to hear that he is back in training after a fairly serious injury. Whether Townsend starts the campaign with us remains to be seen – but he is a class act. His exclusion from the side under Graham Alexander for a large part of last year was baffling and one can only speculate that there were personal differences between the two of them.

Murray Wallace has gone to Millwall. Do you need to add another centre-back, or are you comfortable with Charlie Goode or Cameron Burgess partnering Rory McArdle?

Wallace leaving was a huge blow but one that we all expected. He never put a foot wrong for us and he left with our best wishes. Burgess had a patchy season last term in the sense some weeks he looked really good and others he looked absolutely terrible. Charlie Goode also deserves a chance after playing understudy for a couple of years, despite rarely letting us down when given the opportunity and a run in the side would do either player the world of good.

Funso Ojo appeared to have a solid debut campaign. Is he somebody who does the simple things well?

Absolutely. Eyebrows were raised when he signed last summer as nobody had heard of him but the fans soon took to him and he became a fans favourite after a string of excellent performances. He’s just so calm on the ball and is a really clever player. He did seem to tire towards the end of the season as the intensity and the length of the seasons over here probably got the better of him. If we just had an attacking midfielder to compliment his intelligence and composure, we’d really see the best in him.

Ryan Yates looked a controlling influence in midfield after joining on loan from Forest. Are Clayton Lewis or Levi Sutton capable of reaching Yates’ standards, or is a replacement needed?

The club are trying to get Yates back on loan and it would be a massive coup should they be able to do so. He was named man of the match in most of the games towards the back end of last season and I would love to see him back for another spell, however I am not holding my breath. Lewis showed flashes of skill when given limited opportunities but looked a little light weight and Levi Sutton has always been used to deputise at right back rather than central midfield. It would be nice to see what Sutton can do in a more natural position as he was always a good little player for the reserves and youth sides.

Hakeeb Adelakun has gone to Bristol City this summer. Having worked so hard as a club to develop raw potential over the last half a decade, are you disappointed to lose him on a free?

He won’t go on a free as we are due compensation but it will probably be a disappointing fee agreed by a tribunal. They never seem to go the way of the smaller club so it will be interesting to see what we actually get for him. He finally started to show what he can do on a more regular basis last term but he was still a bit hit and miss and certainly tended to disappear in the big games. He has the potential and the talent to reach the Premier League but it all depends on his attitude and it is certainly intriguing as to whether he will make it in the Championship. He won’t get as many chances to impress at Bristol City as he did here…

Duane Holmes looks like a canny operator. Do you like his movement and willingness to press?

Holmes is undoubtedly our best attacking player and if you’d have given me the option to keep either Adelakun or Holmes to stay it would have been Holmes all day long. He always puts a shift in and no defender in this league will enjoy coming up against someone with as much pace and trickery. It was imperative we kept him and getting him firing will be key to us having a decent season.

Josh Morris had that incredible purple patch in the first half of the 2016-17 campaign when he was scoring practically every week. What do you make of his form since then?

He went from hero to zero with some of the fans and many were rightly questioning some of his performances. Whilst I don’t think they have been that bad, to me there has been a definite switch in his style of play. When he first joined, his first thought was to run at defences and he was really aggressive in his offensive play but last year he seemed to keep slowing things down. He still got in plenty of good areas last year – but his finishing was nowhere near as good as the year before when everything he hit turned to goals!

Ivan Toney ran the channels well last season to allow the trio behind him to threaten. Do you hope Olufela Olomola or loanee Stephen Humphrys, who join from Southampton and Fulham respectively, can do a similar job?

I’ve not seen either of them play yet but first and foremost I’m hoping they can weigh in with some goals. They both look to be quite big, physical lads so you would hope that they can hold the ball up and get the likes of Holmes involved in behind. I think the fans were probably hoping for a proven goalscorer and with Lee Novak always a tackle away from injury we still seem a bit short up top, but I’m willing to give them a chance. I’m actually quite excited by the signing of Olomola and hope we have unearthed another gem.

Matt Gilks has played in the Premier League with Blackpool. Do you feel he’s a reliable goalkeeper at this level, or can new boy Jonathan Flatt challenge him?

Matt Gilks will probably miss until at least Christmas through injury so it’s down to Rory Watson and the new lad Flatt to compete for the number one jersey. Considering Flatt struggled to impress in a couple of League Two/Non League loan spells last term, I think it is safe to assume he is a cheap number two option whilst Gilks returns from injury. Rory Watson looked more than capable when called upon last year and it’s time for him to step up and make the number 1 spot his own.

Iron aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League One season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

Peterborough have signed a large number of players and they look quite impressive on paper – but many also said that about Bury last year. I think Bradford are also doing some good business and you always have to watch the sides coming down who will be well equipped to have a good season. That said, I’ll go for Luton as my dark horses.

Thanks to Matt for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Scunthorpe can be found on We Love Betting from late July.