When Scunthorpe United moved to an out-of-town ground in 1988, they were the first club to do so post-Hillsborough. High-flying Scunny now plan to build an entirely new stadium just yards from Glanford Park. Wise? Ridiculous? Tony Dawber speaks to the secretary of supporters’ group Iron Trust, John Needham.
At first glance, it’s bizarre.
Why, only three decades after shipping out to Glanford Park, are Scunthorpe United set to move again?
Capacity at their current home, 9,088, is enough to house The Iron’s loyal but modest support. Glanford Park’s location by the M181 makes it easily accessible for home and away fan alike.
John Needham, secretary of Scunny’s leading supporters’ group, the Iron Trust, explains:
‘The chairman Peter Swann has big ambitions and wants a 12,000-capacity stadium,’ he began. ‘A ground of that size will enable him to develop the corners of the new complex with hotels, retail outlets and so on. This, he says, will provide the revenue to take the club forward’.
These plans envisage a sweeping main stand and, strikingly, a training complex that in itself will have facilities for more than 2,000 spectators.
Swann has stated that it would be difficult to develop Glanford Park in that way and that in his view, it would be more cost effective to move to a new site.
It’s always a mantra of footy fans, particularly traditional ones, to bemoan moves to modern, characterless, out-of-town stadia miles from their traditional pre-match watering holes.
When the horrors of the 1980s forced English football to get its act together and ditch cattle-pen stadiums, clubs faced a stark choice: modernise or move.
And move usually meant the edge of town where parking spaces were plentiful. In 1988, Scunthorpe became the first English professional side to choose to move. They upped sticks from the Old Show Ground, one of those crumbling old stadiums politely described as having character, to Glanford Park.
Their hew home, on the western fringes of this Lincolnshire steelmaking town, proved a pioneering venture, one subsequently mirrored by several clubs who made the out-of-town switch.
But with Scunthorpe already having made that move in the 1980s, and their planned new home is just a few hundred yards south of Glanford Park, there are no such problems.
Planning permission, always a potential banana skin, has even been granted.
But it’s still not all systems go.
Swann has publicly stated that there are a number of hurdles still to be cleared – it is unclear how many of those, if any, are financial.
With the saga dragging on, the Scunthorpe faithful have become somewhat frustrated with the growing number of false dawns concerning the new stadium.
An original date of March 2016 for construction to begin has long passed and it’s now envisaged that it will be 2018 before The Iron play their first game in their new home.
Despite this, Needham reckons that progress on the field has tempered the mood of supporters. Scunny’s following are beginning to harbour serious ambitions of a return to the Championship.
‘The mood among the fans is very optimistic at the moment,’ he went on. ‘We have played very well so far and for the first time I can remember, we have two good players in every position, which is a great bonus.’
The star turn is Josh Morris, scorer of 12 goals in 12 games since joining from Bradford City on a free in the close season – making him top scorer in European senior football so far this term. The free kick he netted against Northampton last Saturday falls into the ‘they’d have showed it all day if Messi had scored it’ category.
Despite a draw that day, consummate football professional Graham Alexander has guided The Iron to top spot in League One.
As fans eye a return to the second tier last graced in 2008, they realise any Championship welcome will take place in the modest surroundings of Glanford Park rather than their much anticipated spanking new home.