Tuesday night saw Scunthorpe United host their latest Fans’ Forum at Glanford Park, and we thank everyone who attended.
Iron Chairman Peter Swann, Chief Executive Officer James Rodwell and First Team Manager Stuart McCall answered a number of questions from supporters during the three-and-a-half-hour event.
The evening began with a debate about the footballing aspect of the club, and a number of topics were discussed.
Question: With 45 points to play for, do you feel there’s any chance we might get in the play-offs?
SM: There’s always a chance when there are that many points to play for. You wouldn’t have said that a few weeks ago, as we were just looking for the next win. But you have a little run and there’s always an opportunity. You never say never. I’m a realist but I’m also optimistic that you get a couple of wins in the next couple of games and you can start looking upwards. Likewise, if you lose them you look the other way. Realistically, probably not, but we’ll just take each game as it comes, as the old manager’s spiel goes. If you win the next game you start looking upwards and bring teams nearer you. We’ll try to win every game we possibly can and see where it takes us.
Where do you see the academy in five years’ time, and also the likes of Levi Sutton and Kyle Wootton now?
SM: We had a technical board meeting on Monday and talking to Tony Daws (Academy Manager) and Steve Thornber (Professional Development Phase Coach), they think the Under-16s they have at the minute are the strongest group they’ve had in a long, long time, so that’s promising. They were comparing it to the group Levi (Sutton) and Kyle (Wootton) were in. They both had loan spells away earlier this season but had a little sniff because of injuries and lack of numbers, and both of them have taken their chance. We have young Butty (Lewis Butroid), who I know the Chairman has high hopes for. Unfortunately, he’s been out for seven or eight weeks and now has a little back spasm, but played the full 90 minutes (of Tuesday’s behind-closed-doors friendly against Sheffield Wednesday). Fans just want to win, but it’s nice if you can do it with players who are homegrown, and I think you have to give them the opportunity. Hopefully, between now and the next 10 games, we can get enough points to be in a comfortable position, and if we can’t get in the play-offs there might be opportunities for other young ones. They’ve got to be good enough naturally, you can’t just throw them in. It’s still early days with Levi and Kyle because they have to be consistent, but they’ve shown they have the attributes to be good players for Scunthorpe going forward.
Kevin van Veen has been brought back to the club, but why is he on the bench and not playing?
SM: I just think you have somebody at the moment in (Lee) Novak, who’s our top scorer and Kyle Wootton, who he’s formed a good partnership with, and Kevin’s there to take his chance and do well. Kevin scored (in the behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday). Everyone thought the new central defenders would be in the team, but all of a sudden Rory (McArdle) and Cameron (Burgess) hit good form and stopped making errors. It’s a squad game and everyone has to be at their best every time. In Tuesday’s game, he was quiet for the first 20-25 minutes, and then got his goal in the second-half and played really well. He’s knocking on the door.
Why do the substitutions tend to be made so late?
SM: You judge a game on its merits, and sometimes you’re playing in games and people start having an effect on the game. You get in areas and think there’s a goal coming, and wait and wait. Sometimes you decide to change it. I remember my first game at Accrington, where we were shocking in the first-half. We couldn’t pass from A to B and changed the formation. It’s a manager and coach’s call, but you look at how you can hurt the opposition. It’s never pre-planned. On Saturday, we were 2-0 down and took Perchy (James Perch) off as we didn’t feel we needed a sitting midfielder (at that time). We brought Hammy (Adam Hammill) off, who’s had a little sciatica, and gave Kevin 30-odd minutes. We judge each case on its merits.
You went on the good run with mostly the same players (as earlier in the season), what changed in that time?
SM: We got more luck and also cut out the individual errors. For instance, we went to Doncaster and were two down so early. The first goal was a deflection so that was unfortunate, and then Charlie slipped up for the second. It was similar at Bradford the following week. We made one individual error at Fleetwood, with Harrison (McGahey) where the boy (Wes) Burns went in and shot wide. We got away with that. It wasn’t a massive error but if it goes in it’s an error that’s cost us. You look at Barnsley on Saturday, they had a fantastic move early on and crossed it in, with the boy scoring it, and he’s marginally offside and disallowed. That was a really good goal and we couldn’t do much about that as the football was great. Then we lost a couple of poor goals. We needed the luck against Wycombe to get us up and running, we then played really well at Peterborough, although they gifted Novs the chance to score the first goal with a backpass. A little luck went our way and confidence grew. We know it can change so quickly so you just keep at it and keep on it.
You’ve predominantly bought defenders in January, but I feel we could really have done with a midfielder. Wouldn’t it have been wise to bring one in?
SM: We looked at that area, and in the period we were looking at that, the likes of Levi (Sutton) came on and Perchy (James Perch) started playing well in the holding midfield role, while Funso (Ojo) was getting better and we found out Lundy (Matthew Lund) wouldn’t be out for too long. It was an area we looked at and enquired about. We just felt with the four we have, we had enough. Josh Morris will maybe be back in four-to-six weeks too. He’s going well and is in the gym every day. We were hoping to bring Ryan Yates in, while we also looked at Sam Field at West Brom, who they didn’t let out.
Do you think it would make a difference if we had full-time referees in our league?
JR: Moves are afoot at the moment to full-time professionalise the referees in League One.
Does the Chairman feel in hindsight it was a big mistake for so many players to leave during the summer?
PS: It was business sense to be honest. Four of our players had gone to the Championship and we were always going to have to rebuild. For instance, Murray (Wallace) had an option in his contract to go and I respect him because he could have gone a year earlier, having that clause back then, but I convinced him to stay. Duane (Holmes) and Conor (Townsend) decided they wanted to go to the Championship, because they had interest from that level. Hakeeb went on to Bristol City too. Anyone coming to Scunthorpe now looks at is as a chance to move up the leagues. The problem we had was the availability of players in the summer. There weren’t a huge amount. Peterborough went out and bought ten players, spending a lot of money on them, and other teams weren’t releasing players from the Championship clubs so we couldn’t get certain loan players, as Premier League clubs weren’t letting players go out on loan to the Championship, hence they had to keep their players. We were limited in what we could get and then when we did get players in, we ended up with five serious injuries. It’s very difficult to plan for long-term injuries. They happen and you have to cope with it. I’d like to think once we settled things down during the bad run, we weren’t that bad when you look at the possession and game play, we were just making errors at crucial times that were killing us in the games. We boosted the squad in January and the players already in the team started to play really well. We’ve had to rebuild. When there are players who really want to move on, you can’t keep them. It’s a combination of losing four key players, while the injuries on top didn’t help. We had to do a bit of fire-fighting, but now we’re looking up the table and we’re going to push forward, take every game as it comes and see where we are. If we go on a similar run now in our next seven games that will push us closer, and we’ll try and finish as high as we can. I have to make big decisions at this football club and selling players is part of that. We’re not wealthy enough not to let players go for good amounts of money, for which they did go. I think the players we have brought in are exciting. We did our business early in January because we’d worked very hard from October and November to get them ready to come in. We’ve invested in them and are also kicking on with the Under-23s, which will help us immensely and strengthen us going forward. It’s an exciting squad and Stuart has come in at a great time. I picked him to come into this club because of the qualities he has, at this time for the football club. I’m hoping he’s going to develop these young lads moving forward and give us a good base to kick on. I can understand your frustration when we were losing seven or eight games and I’d done what I’d done in the summer and earlier in the season, but it was primarily about availability as well.
SM: When I came in, it was so close to the loan deadline, and the aim was to stay around 10th. If we’d not had the injuries we’ve had, I think we’d have been a few points better off, and we were always going to strengthen in January.
Can all the players come into the Iron Bar after a home game?
SM: We’ll give it serious thought and sort something out.
How close are we to getting a 25-30 goals a season player?
PS: My big aim was to get Ivan (Toney) here at the start of the season, and we did everything we could, just missing out. We try to get a blend of players and take our time, because we want them to fit in. That’s how we start to develop the squads. The nitty gritty is the money, but sometimes when you’re like Scunthorpe you have to make a statement and pay a little bit more to get the players here. Now, Scunthorpe is regarded as a good place to play football. They know what we do. It’s difficult to sign those strikers. I’m hoping Kyle can start scoring because it’s in his game, but this is the best he’s played for us for a long time which is great. We’re always looking for a striker who can come in and score a lot of goals. We brought Kevin back, because he’d been doing well in League Two, with a lot of assists and goals, and believe he’s an immense talent who can turn games. Novs has done well and hopefully he’ll go on and score 15-20 goals this season. Fela (Olufela Olomola) has come back, played well and scored a lot of goals (for the Under-23s). He’s looking really sharp but again is only a youngster. We’ll continue to try looking.
Do you think Kevin van Veen needs a good run in the team to get going?
SM: I think you’re probably spot on with that, but you can say that about everyone. Kyle Wootton needs a run in the team, Adam Hammill needs a run in the team, Harrison McGahey needs a run in the team… When we ask players for certain things in team meetings and people are doing those right, you have to reward them. With Kevin, he came back into the club at the time that Kyle had just got in the side and was doing well. I think Kyle and Novs do well together. Fela has come back and he scored three last week and another behind-closed-doors against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday, and has been terrific in training. As a manager, your remit with any player is to get the best out of them. On Saturday, Kev would have been disappointed not to start because we went with Hammy, who had done enough in the Sunderland game when he scored and did okay at Fleetwood. Hammy played at St Mirren as a forward for the first few months of the season. As much as people say you played 5-4-1, we didn’t, we played 5-3-2 and told Hammy to stay as far up the park as possible with Novs. It didn’t work in the end, but having said that he’s in the box when we should have had a penalty kick. They’re all pushing each other and if Kev comes in and does what we all know he can do then he’ll stay in the side. Everyone who was brought in came here to improve the side but they have to get in it and stay in it. It was difficult at Fleetwood, as I felt it was a harsh decision to leave Levi on the bench, but Hammill had come, shown great quality in training, scored a wonder goal against Sunderland and his confidence was high. We knew Fleetwood would be playing Wes Burns, who is a left-winger, at right-back, so we had to target that by playing a winger against him. Did it work? No, because the conditions were rubbish, we didn’t get the ball to him and Burns also played quite well.
Why didn’t the referee give us a penalty at Barnsley on Saturday?
SM: When you freeze it on the video, he is behind somebody. He said he didn’t think there was enough contact, but the young linesman on the side was right in front it and it should have been his call. I think if we’d have been at home, we’d have got it. At the end of the day, we lost to a better side, but if we’d have had that decision it could have turned out better for us. To be fair to referees though, it’s not an easy job.
Is there a possibility of signing Tony McMahon permanently in the summer?
SM: That is something we’ll debate going forward, as Jordan (Clarke) has another year on his contract and you can’t really afford to have two top-class right-backs financially. You need a good one and a young one. He still has another year at Oxford, so they could say at the end of the season they want to keep him or want ‘X amount’ for him. Tony’s a good professional and has really good quality as a full-back passing the ball. He’ll also win you free-kicks and is quite wily. He knows the game, played alongside Rory a long time at Bradford and had a successful partnership on the right side of the defence. We spoke to Jordan at lunchtime on Tuesday and he’s absolutely out of his mind because he’s had the worst year with injuries. He had a little bit of trouble with his hamstring in the past but the two he’s had this season have been so unfortunate and nothing to do with that. Tony has to keep performing, he’s done well for the minute.
Is there a chance of any more players coming on trial?
SM: We’re always open to bring people over and have a look at them. The player from Malta (Kyrian Nwoko), we’ll still monitor, but the deal went up and up. We’ll keep looking at him though. Lewis McGugan has been with us for three weeks but it’s never been a trial, we’ve been helping him out getting fit. He has great quality, and has gone somewhere else for a couple of days of training, but he’s one that will be monitored.
Has Hakeeb Adelakun’s tribunal been settled yet?
PS: We’re still working on that at the minute. It’s been a long process. Hopefully in the next month we’ll sort that out.
JR: It’s a long legal process you have to go through and it is frustrating. All the submissions had to be in on Monday and the tribunal that sits has quite a narrow band to come to their conclusions. It’s not based on what he’s done in the meantime (since signing for them), but it factors what he’s done with us, how much money we’ve spent on him and our academy developing players, and the fact he made so many appearances for us.
What makes Stuart think he’s different to the last few managers we’ve had?
SM: You’ve got to believe in yourself. When the opportunity came up at Scunthorpe, I knew what a good club it was. I know people who work here and have been here, and felt it was a good fit. I had opportunities to go to other clubs and I genuinely didn’t think it was a good fit. I also wanted to come to a club that had the same ambitions as I have. I just want to be successful, and I thought this would be a good place to do that. As a coach and manager, you have to believe yourself in whatever club you go to. We achieved above the budget at Motherwell and Bradford, and I’ll give it everything I’ve got to be successful.
Michael Brennan also publicly thanked the manager for letting his disabled son Ben train with the first team.
Following a short break, the second part of the evening saw the Chairman and supporters discuss stadium move/redevelopment matters, and where things stand between the club, KMG and North Lincolnshire Council.
The Chairman has put a statement out regarding this, which can be seen here.
The final part of the night saw club matters discussed in detail, with questions asked about a number of issues.
Next season’s home kit and FBT…
It was revealed that the claret and blue option won the kit vote in the 2019 Supporters’ Survey, receiving 84 per cent of the vote.
A comment was raised about the shade of blue, and Head of Ticketing, Retail and Marketing Rob Noble said: “How they come across digitally isn’t the same, but we are assured it will be the same blue colour we’ve had over the last two seasons with FBT.”
The design is based on the popular 1982-83 home kit, during a season which saw United win promotion from the Fourth Division. It was also a popular seller in our club shop in 2015, selling out quickly, when a retro version of the shirt was released.
“It will look great. We’ve tried to do it early too so we can get it in the shop as early as possible,’ said the Chairman.
A supporter asked if we could have claret shorts with the blue kit, which a number of fans in the forum agreed could be a good move, and the panel said that a vote could be put in place about whether we’d have blue or claret shorts with the new home kit.
|Following the discussions at the forum, we are in talks with the kit supplier and will provide the opportunity for fans to decide the final combination of the home kit shorts and socks in the coming days.|
A question was asked about FBT as the Iron’s kit suppliers, and it was explained how over the last two years with the kit suppliers, the club had sold 3,000 shirts and only 15 had been returned. When asked why couldn’t we have Adidas, Nike or such companies as supplier, Rodwell added: “It’s about the deal. We’re not getting anything bespoke with Nike or Adidas as we just get their ‘teamwear’ shirts. The deal with FBT makes money for the football club and stacks up really well.”
‘Teamwear’ kits are ones that anyone can buy online for their Sunday League side for instance, and you get little or no choice in design. Nike and Puma kits in League One range between £43 and £48 too, while Sunderland’s bespoke Adidas kit is on sale for £49.99.
The CEO continued: “We have the second cheapest shirt in League One, only Bristol Rovers sell theirs for 95p cheaper. The price is considerably cheaper for a fully bespoke kit than it was when we were with Nike in 2014 too. The price of the shirt was £44 and it’s now gone down to £39.95 for a fully bespoke kit.”
He added: “We are below the average sale price in the division, which is £42.60, and both our neighbours Lincoln and Grimsby sell theirs for more than us too.”
FBT delivered the kits on schedule this season despite the sponsors not being signed off until the end of May (due to the club not knowing which league it would be in and the greater commercial opportunities being in the Championship presents).
Last year’s sizing issue was a mis-communication between FBT Europe and FBT Thailand with the ‘fitted’ playing shirts produced for retail. This will revert back to ‘normal’ sizing for retail next season.
There was then a lengthy discussion about catering and the stadium bars, which from last summer was outsourced to a company called VCP who work in partnership with the club.
“They’re a company who have worked successfully with Hull City and Wolverhampton Wanderers amongst others, but it would be fair to say we’ve had teething problems,” said Rodwell.
The panel listened to all of the feedback, which included points about staffing levels, the service and quality of offering. The panel assured supporters that all their concerns would be taken on board and discussed with VCP.
“The quality and service has to be right and we’ll take that on board,” the Chairman said. “VCP came in and said they could do the job, have done it elsewhere and are under contract with us. We will take your complaints to them and do our best as a club to sort that out. We’ll sort it the best we can.”
“We also need to perhaps get a sub-group together to sit down with VCP to talk about the frustrations,” added Rodwell.
There was also a debate about the pricing of refreshments in the stadium, with supporters commenting on the price increases in the summer following the arrival of VCP. Rodwell explained: “Nothing had gone up in five years, and that was probably remiss of us as a club because, if it had increased year on year, it would be where it is now. You’re always going to pay more at a venue unfortunately.”
The Chairman added: “We will get it right and sort it out. We didn’t spend all that money on refurbishing the Iron Bar for people to not use it.”
It was asked whether chips could be served in the kiosks in Glanford Park on a matchday.
“We have a limited amount of power in this building and can’t use fryers. Health and safety prevents it, but I promise you chips at the new stadium,” the Chairman said.
One family had been stopped by stewards when trying to leave the car park 10 minutes before the end of the last home match against Sunderland, and Rodwell accepted this wasn’t acceptable and will be looked into. He said: “If you leave ten minutes before the end, you should be able to get out of the ground. We made a conscious effort before that game to get the message out about the 26 Sunderland coaches being allowed out prior to other people after the game.”
It was asked whether there would be improvements on access and egress for disabled supporters, and the Chairman said this would happen as part of the stadium redevelopment. “In the new stadium we have to abide by new laws, so it will change. We have to do it properly and will do so. We know it’s not ideal at the moment,” he said.
Merchandise in the club shop was discussed and Rodwell said that the feedback from the recent Supporters’ Survey will help the club form strategy to hopefully improve what we offer. “We want to hear what our supporters want, because you’re our lifeblood,” the CEO said.
Season ticket prices…
It was explained that season tickets for next season will go on sale in March, with prices frozen for the fifth year in succession, and the Early Bird deadline will be extended until the end of April. There will be later deadlines afterwards too to make discounts and full details will be announced in due course.
Matchday ticket prices are approximately £2 cheaper than the League One average. There is also the Under-12s go free offer, which was increased to that age range by the club from Under-7s in 2014-15.
At the end of the event, it was mentioned that a great deal of interaction with Supporters Clubs have taken place this year so concerns/questions can be addressed, while paying for use of the Sir Ian Botham Executive Lounge on a matchday and safe standing were briefly discussed, as was the club’s position with the Scunthorpe Telegraph, who we have recently allowed back in the stadium for matches following a legal dispute.
Once again, we thank all supporters who attended the Fans’ Forum and gave us their feedback on the night.