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OTD: Club elected into the Football League 70 years ago today

3 June 2020

The Iron were elected into the Football League 70 years ago today on June 3rd, 1950.

In the first week of June, Scunthorpe and Lindsey United's party, headed by Ernest Plowright and MP David Quibell, set off south with optimism for the business in front of them.

There could be no complacency, despite two positions in the League for new clubs to fill in the Northern Section. An early start would allow plenty of time to do that extra canvassing and to put the Scunthorpe story across to those who mattered.

Once around the hotels and exclusive clubs of the capital, they generally met with a favourable response, although by then they knew there was a lot of competition from other non-league teams that might prove to be more worthy of taking those two precious places.

At the AGM, the business of re-electing the bottom clubs came as the usual formality. Voting then resulted in Colchester United and Gillingham taking the two Southern places as expected. Tensions mounted as the ballot was made for the reciprocal Northern positions. Scunthorpe eyed up the opposition and considered Shrewsbury Town as their main rivals. However, when the vote was taken the result shook the Scunthorpe directors to their boots.

Shrewsbury Town had indeed led the way and were in front of the pack on votes, but Workington and Wigan were level just behind, and Scunthorpe's total put them in fourth spot. For a moment, the Scunthorpe group were in despair as the holy grail slipped from their grasp.

Unprepared for the indecisive ballot, the Chairman of the day announced a second ballot involving all but Shrewsbury, who were given the thumbs up for the Third Division North section. The reprieve set the palms sweating and the heart beating faster again. This second vote was so important to the future welfare of the Club. It seemed like an age to reorganise the slips and for the members to make a second choice, but eventually the returns were in. The drama of the announcement of this second attempt was just as astonishing. This time, Wigan and Scunthorpe had tied at the top of the poll.

In near chaos, a third ballot was hastily agreed on. The third and final shoot-out would be a direct confrontation between Wigan and Scunthorpe. All that United's band could do was cross their fingers and pray. The last declaration awarded Wigan 18 votes and Scunthorpe 30. Plowright and company let out a great cheer of relief, shaking hands and embracing each other. At last, after 50 years of struggles, the club had achieved its ambition to join the country's national football competition.

News of this great achievement was splashed across the front page of the Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph. It was a momentous occasion for Scunthorpe and Lindsey United, and was greeted with great enthusiasm around the town and its immediate surroundings. Supporters could not wait until August, which would bring the first match in this wonderful new sphere. The directors said they would need gates of at least 15,000, and arrangements were straight away put in hand to increase the capacity by banking the Doncaster Road terracing. A new manager was to be advertised for, and money be made available for footballers of the strength and character for the conflicts ahead. Sadly, some of the old-timers of the Midland League would not be good enough to participate in the journey ahead. Some of them, like Harry Johnson and Mal Millington, would at least be retained to look after junior and reserve teams, or to carry out scouting missions. Supporters had also to become accustomed to far tighter and lower scoring games than in the past, although since the Second World War this was something they had come to expect anyway, as the competition of the Midland League had developed. Suddenly everyone was talking about the club and life at the Old Show Ground had never been better.

Taken from Scunthorpe United FC, Official Centenary History by John Staff (published in 1999.

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