What a year it was to be associated with Scunthorpe United Football Club!The team were worthy champions of League One, and new records were constantly being set by one of the best teams this club has ever had.
Who will ever forget our last matches here at Glanford Park? Billy Sharp's double ensured victory over Huddersfield and secured elevation to the second tier of English football. The celebrations that took place afterwards will live long in the memory of many a Scunthorpe fan. It was even better three weeks later when the title was awarded at home to Carlisle United, and Scunthorpe rose to the occasion with a 3-0 thumping of the Cumbrians. As manager Nigel Adkins said, these are great days for the club, days like these don't come around too often. In fact, we've waited almost fifty years for these ones!
As this team have proved you don't need the biggest budget in the world to ensure success, just unbreakable team spirit and heart of lions.
This is all a far cry from the beginning of the season, when an agonising nine months looked in store judging on the first five games. United couldn't win for love nor money, despite putting in what had arguably being their better performances of the campaign. Who would have thought that the opening day match against Bristol City at Ashton Gate would feature what would end up as the division's top two clubs this season? The Iron went down to a narrow loss at Ashton Gate against the promotion favourites, with a controversial Enoch Showunmi goal separating the two teams. The next two games came on home soil, but only draws could be achieved - against Swansea City and Crewe Alexandra respectively. They were certainly four points dropped though.
Arguably the poorest display of the season came next, at Rotherham, when United went ahead but then got sunk 2-1 against the Millers at Millmoor. More league despair was to come when we could only draw 1-1 at home to Brentford, despite battering them and hitting the woodwork three times. Nevertheless, the first win of the season finally came in the most unlikely of places, Gillingham on a Friday night. It was hoped that the 2-0 success would provide a springboard for the season, but a 1-0 loss at Oldham the following week saw the Iron sitting in the bottom two. Things weren't looking pretty.
Then came the season's turning point, a 3-0 home win over Port Vale; where a whole-hearted team performance saw Scunthorpe dispose of the then-early season pacesetters with some aplomb. The confidence increased, Billy Sharp notched his first double of the campaign, and then came a perfect chance to make it six points out of six at home to Cheltenham. United took it, albeit leaving it very late through Andy Keogh, and it was the launch pad for magnificent success.
A brief respite came in the Carling Cup second round where, after disposing of Lincoln after extra time in Round One, the Iron hosted Martin O'Neill's resurgent Aston Villa in front of the Sky cameras. They lost 2-1, but it was another good confidence-boosting performance, and Brian Laws' side took that form into their league games; drawing 1-1 at Bournemouth next up, and then winning 1-0 at Chesterfield. A 2-0 thumping of local rivals Doncaster Rovers took Scunthorpe into the play-off positions and they then never left the top six as they entered October in a rich vein of form.
Boss Laws took the "manager of the month" award for September and, with the Sky cameras rolling into town for the trip to runaway leaders Nottingham Forest on Saturday October 7, the supposed 'curse' of the accolade could have hit. It didn't though, as Scunthorpe romped to 4-0 victory. United fans were in dreamland, Forest's supporters were demoralized, Sky Sports were bewildered. The unexpected rise continued.
A home loss to Brighton followed in the next game, bringing United's players their first experience of referee Darren Deadman in full flow. Nevertheless, heads didn't drop and this young squad just got better and better, winning at Bradford and then disposing of Leyton Orient.
However, the first blow of the season came at the start of November when Sheffield Wednesday approached the club with the view to interviewing Laws about their managerial vacancy. United reluctantly allowed Laws to talk to the Hillsborough board and he promptly did enough to impress Owls chairman Dave Allen.
His, and assistant Russ Wilcox's, final game came away at Huddersfield on Saturday, 4th November - ending in a creditable 1-1 draw - and a ten-year long chapter in the club's history drew to a close.
However, a new one quickly emerged and Chairman Steve Wharton handed the reins to physio Nigel Adkins, with senior players Andy Crosby and Ian Baraclough assisting him. Youth team coach Tony Daws also stepped up his duties to manager the reserve side, as temporary changes were made to the management structure.
Wharton's decision proved so inspired that these changes were made permanent at the beginning of December; since then the club haven't looked back.
Adkins' first game in charge came in the FA Cup first round away at Cheltenham, where the Iron were solid throughout and earned a 0-0 draw. They went on to win the replay 2-0 just under a fortnight later, but another one of the season's big stepping stones came just prior to that.
Putting in a high-octane performance that ranks as one of their best of the season Scunthorpe couldn't break down a resilient Northampton side at Glanford Park, with goalkeeper Mark Bunn pulling off a masterclass in goalkeeping. However, a late, late penalty - duly converted by captain Andy Crosby - made sure the deserved three points came United's way.
It was a big result that strengthened the Iron's promotion hand. The 2-0 win at Yeovil a week later was also significant. An FA Cup second round exit at the hands of Wrexham followed (perhaps a blessing?) before the Iron picked up a decent point at home to fellow promotion contenders Tranmere and then won 2-0 at Carlisle United. Those away successes just kept coming.
There then was a minor setback with the 3-1 home loss at the hands of Blackpool, a first defeat in two months. Little did we know that it would take until April for the next one! The usually tricky Christmas period was negotiated without a hitch, defeating Millwall away (1-0) through a Steve Torpey strike, Chesterfield (1-0) and Bournemouth (3-2) at home before earning a decent point at Port Vale on New Years Day.
Scunthorpe entered the New Year sitting top of the division. Boss Adkins said he hoped we'd be still top at the start of February. He'd be proved right as January saw the Iron stay unbeaten.
Another significant steeping stone came at home to Bristol City the next Monday, with a 1-0 win secured through Billy Sharp bringing more success in front of the live TV cameras. Rotherham at home were next to be put to the sword (1-0), then Swansea (2-0) and Gillingham felt the wrath (3-1) before two away wins in a week at Crewe (3-1) and Brentford (2-0) respectively.
The club entered March in rich spirits, selling out Glanford Park for a league fixture for the first time when Nottingham Forest visited to play their part in an entertaining 1-1 draw. That result ended Forest's challenge to Scunthorpe in reality, despite Colin Calderwood's claims that his team could overhaul a ten-point advantage after the match.
Two valuable away draws were earned at Brighton (1-1) and then very late on with Billy Sharp to thank against Leyton Orient (2-2). The 2-0 home win over Bradford restored the winning habit at Glanford Park, and then a 1-0 success over Yeovil on Good Friday in front of a packed home crowd all but sealed Championship football for Scunthorpe United.
They could have confirmed promotion at Northampton on Easter Monday, but succumbed to their first loss in four months and their only away defeat since September. However, the Iron held their nerve and the Huddersfield home match on Saturday April 14 proved to be 'the one'. A Billy Sharp brace ensured a 2-0 win over the Terriers.
The divisional title was all but clinched at Tranmere (2-0) a week later and then was confirmed in bittersweet circumstances at Blackpool on the penultimate week of the season, Scunthorpe lost 3-1, but their nearest challengers Bristol City lost too - handing the title to United and enabling Scunthorpe to celebrate Andy Crosby lifting high the League One championship trophy the following Saturday afternoon following a routine 3-0 win over Carlisle.
It was a season to cherish - and supporters who have followed the team home and away have certainly had their monies worth!