OPINION: Scunthorpe are one ‘quality’ defender away from another Play Off campaign

It’s October. We’ve already had a managerial change, and have rocketed up the table from a low point of 18th, to the dizzying heights of 9th after last night – but as the Carpenters so beautifully sang, when it comes to Stuart McCall’s tenure, it’s only just begun.

The season started promisingly when Nick Daws’ side came from behind to upset newly promoted Coventry City at the Ricoh Arena – but even in victory, there were warning signs.

The Iron had lost a hatful of key figures in the summer, and Daws had pulled together a squad he felt would be good enough for another pop at the play off’s, but in truth, us Iron fans knew it wouldn’t be enough.

Nick had done a magnificent job in caretaker charge on two occasions, and was definitely deserved of a chance to have a go on a full time basis.

Who was Nick Daws?

I, like Iron chairman Peter Swann, have to put my hands up and say it was a mistake – a mistake that set us back in the early stages of the season, but thankfully hasn’t defined our entire season – at least I think.

I wanted Nick to be given a chance. Having worked at the club in the media department, I had seen his work behind the scenes – and I liked the guy a lot.

Under Mark Robins he was given the job of being ‘chief bollocker’ after games in which United had performed poorly – but he was just following orders. After Robins left, the players at the time saw a different Daws.

Where it started to go wrong

Having travelled to the Stadium of Light, you have to feel sorry for Nick.

Although we were comfortably defeated in the end – and although we cannot be sure – had we been given that penalty claim in the first half whilst the scores were still level, maybe we would have got something from that game?

Maybe, just maybe, we might not have gone on to do what we did just a few days later, too, and Nick might of stayed. But that’s football.

Former Iron boss Nick Daws before his dismissal

I’m a firm believer that unless you’re playing a side in the ilk of Manchester City or Liverpool, you should never lose 5-0 at home. Ever. Although it was only the fourth game of the season, we had seen enough to know it wasn’t going to click. It’s shit – and yes, I’m fickle – but he had to go.

I hope, however, he gets another chance elsewhere – of which I’m sure he will.

And after allllllll we’ve got Stuart McCallllll

So Daws had gone with United having conceded 10 goals in four games – there’s no prizes for pinpointing the core of the Iron’s problems.

A good performance under caretaker Andy Dawson against high-flying Barnsley resulted in a 2-2 draw, but at this point results weren’t key – everyone had their eyes on the odds for the next permanent manager.

McCall’s appointment divided the fanbase, but all-in-all had been welcomed as a breath of fresh air.

It will have taken the former Scottish international a matter of days on the training ground to see where his biggest task lie – our leaky defence.

In McCall’s first two games in charge his side squandered a lead to gain just a point from each game.

The point at Accrington was welcomed, as it had been unexpected, but the defensive display against Rochdale showed how we were very much still in the interim stage of McCall attending to the defensive issues.

Thankfully, I believe we will look back on our season and say it truly started against AFC Wimbledon.

To go away from home, take a 2-0 lead exactly as we had done the week before – and although the players made us sweat – to hold on for a 3-2 win, was a huge confidence booster for the team.

Seven points from the nine on offer has followed that result, including an unlikely couple of clean sheets.

But, on Tuesday night we played in a game at home that required us to score a minimum of four goals to win. That is unsustainable, and sadly will definitely happen again this season, unless we see an important incoming in January.

Murray Wallace left, and so did any mettle to our defence

Conor Townsend was a big loss, but we are suffering from not replacing Murray Wallace. It’s as simple as that.
Rory McCardle has been in-and-out of the team, which has meant that Cameron Burgess and Charlie Goode have been our centre halves on too many occasions.
Burgess showed good form at stages last season, but I believe Wallace’s ability to cover for any mistakes made meant we overlooked the frailties in his game. He’s still learning.
I believe we have a good player in Burgess, but he has to be alongside ‘a Wallace’.
Goode came from non-league, and has done well for us – but last night showed again that he is more suited to a back-up role.
Too many times in that first half he allowed Lyle Taylor space on the ball, and on other occasions dived in too early, leaving it all too easy for the Charlton forward line.
I won’t say anything too negative about Charlie. He’s a really great lad, has exactly the right attitude, and pops up with goals almost Andy Butler-esque at times. He does have a future with the club – and I believe McCall will be a good influence on him.

A centre back of real quality please, Mr Swann

So what do we need? We need to spend big in January on a centre back. We chose to give the centre back’s we already had a chance at the start of the season. I respect that, but it hasn’t worked.
It was really unfortunate to lose Rory Watson to a long-term injury, but in doing so we signed one of the best goalkeeper’s I’ve seen play for the Iron in Jak Alnwick.
Put a good defence in front of him (and of course extend his loan), and suddenly we mean business.
If we truly are to go for another play off push, we have to put a plug in the holes of our defence.
Although strength in depth would also be welcome, it is essential we see a ‘marquee’ centre back join the club.
We received transfer fees for numerous players in the summer, and we now know where that has to be reinvested.
Iron chairman Peter Swann has always backed his managers in the transfer window
The Swann family have done wonders for us since they took over – much to the contrary of many Iron fans’ beliefs – and I believe they will see fit to release the funds to make sure we back McCall in the winter transfer window.
It’s quite exciting knowing we haven’t seen a full McCall transfer window yet. And, his only signing so far in Alnwick has turned out okay, hasn’t it? (Ike Ugbo was on his way before McCall was appointed).

No matter what, we should be proud

We have challenged at the right end of League One with huge teams the last few years – and we should not forget how we are out of our depth in that sense.
Good football has been on show in recent season’s – but sadly the Iron fan-base has failed to grow to what the football on offer deserved.
Even if this season turns out to be one of mid-table solidarity – that’s not all too bad for little old Scunny really…

McCall is the man for the future

I believe we have a man at the helm for the foreseeable future, and we should all just enjoy the ride.
Win, lose, draw – We’re all Scunny aren’t we?
Ross Gibson
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