Humberside home of the Iron and a pioneering stadium

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

England’s first purpose-built, out-of-town stadium of the modern era was opened in Scunthorpe in 1988. Pre-dating even the Hillsborough Disaster itself, Glanford Park is a testament to the tenacity of a football club who represent a relatively unsung county in the English game.

Until recently Lincolnshire’s only flagship in the Football League, Scunthorpe United are known as the Iron, in recognition of the industrial nature of the town they serve. Closer in character to Hull over the Humber than the agricultural swathes of south Lincolnshire, Scunthorpe also considers nearby Grimsby as a local rival. The pair has only met seven times in major fixtures this century, though, unlike the more regular meetings with Hull City. 

Recent form in League Two indicates that United may well meet Grimsby again before too long – though in the fifth tier, the Iron having finished a lowest-ever 90 out of The 92 in 2021, just one win clear of the drop.

Welcome to Scunthorpe/Tony Dawber

Formed by a merger of Wesleyan stronghold Brumby and another local club in 1899, Scunthorpe joined forces with North Lindsey United a decade later. The club that eventually entered the Football League in 1950, after several failed applications, was Scunthorpe & Lindsey United. For the sake of brevity, the current name was adopted five years later.

United were based at the Old Show Ground, in operation since the 1860s. Close to the town’s railway station, its site now occupied by a Sainsbury’s supermarket, it was a typical Victorian-era venue in the heart of an industrial community.

The move to Glanford Park was radical for 1988 – there hadn’t been a new stadium built in the Football League for more than 30 years. Set by the M181 motorway west of town, it ushered in a new era of clubs rushing to cash in on the real-estate value of their centrally located, dilapidated grounds and relocating. An adjoining retail park and easy motorway access also became underlying factors.

Welcome to Scunthorpe/Tony Dawber

Nearly 30 years later, in 2016, Scunthorpe United presented plans for a long vaunted new stadium that would replace the now dated Glanford Park. A short distance further out, closer to Althorpe’s train station than Scunthorpe’s, Lincolnshire Lakes would have differed radically from its predecessor. For a start, the new development has a projected cost of £1.2 billion, including 6,000 new homes – Glanford Park was £2.5 million.

For United’s multi-millionaire owner Peter Swann, who arrived in 2013, this massive investment was just another high-risk decision. Brave enough to sack popular manager Brian Laws in his first year as chairman after a cup defeat to non-league Grimsby, Swann then found consistency in Graham Alexander. The former Scottish international defender began his career at Scunthorpe when Glanford Park opened and his return galvanised the Iron.

Missing out on the 2016 League One play-offs on narrow goal difference to later promoted Barnsley, Scunthorpe made the sudden-death round the next two years running only to fall at the semi-final stage. 

Relegation from League One in 2019 was followed by two extremely poor seasons in League Two, Scunthorpe missing out on a long-awaited derby clash with Lincoln City as their local rivals were moving up the ladder.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Scunthorpe’s nearest airport is underused Humberside, 28km (17 miles) east towards Grimsby, with no direct public transport links.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport is 43km (27 miles) west. First Bus 57c runs to Doncaster Interchange (£3, Mon-Sat every 30mins, Sun every hr, journey time 25mins), a 5min walk to Doncaster station. From there a regular train to Scunthorpe takes around 30-40mins (£13 single).

Taxi firm Ashby Cars (01724 644 444) has its office on Scunthorpe High Street and quotes £30 from Humberside Airport, £40 from Doncaster-Sheffield.

A train from London Kings Cross requires a change at Doncaster, overall journey time 2hr 15mins, advance singles £25. From Birmingham New Street, you have to change at Sheffield, sometimes Derby too, overall journey time 3hrs, advance singles £70. From Manchester Piccadilly, the hourly train (1hr 45mins, £25 advance single) is direct.

Scunthorpe station is a short walk south of the town centre. Glanford Park is a long walk west of town. There’s a limited regional bus network provided by East Yorkshire Buses, Stagecoach and Hornsbys, running to the Tescos and/or A18 retail park near the stadium, with a reduced weekend/Sunday service. Most leave from Scunthorpe bus station at the south-eastern edge of the town centre, a 7-10min walk from the train station.

A PlusBus supplement (£3.50) to your train ticket allows all-day travel with all three companies.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Pubs and bars are spread all round the town centre. Up from the station towards town, the cosy Honest Lawyer is a handy place to start, with TV sport, a good choice of beer and excellent food.

Further up Oswald Road, the Blue Bell Inn is Scunthorpe’s main Wetherspoon, close to the junction with the High Street/Doncaster Road. To the left, Class 6 is a party bar with a younger crowd and football on TV. Further down the High Street towards the bus station, The Tavern reopened after a £200,000 refurbishment and provides cheap beer with sport action. The Penny Bank is another wallet-friendly spot with football on TV and karaoke after dark.

Further down the main street on the stadium side, the Baths Hall is a live venue created from a pre-war bathhouse.

The other side of the station, near The Pods, family-friendly Queensway in the Hungry Horse chain shows sport while serving standard meals and regular beers.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the ground and around town

Visit North Lincolnshire has a database of local accommodation.

The nearest hotel to the stadium is the Travelodge Scunthorpe, right next door, with limited free parking for guests. With the sad closure of The Berkeley, Scunthorpe has lost not only a convenient lodging close to Glanford Park but a pre-match bar, too.

Outside town on the stadium side, by the site of the Old Show Ground, the Royal Hotel has seen far better days and is more used as a pub/restaurant. Alongside, Encore Rooms is basic and affordable. 

Conveniently located by the train station, the Bridge Hotel awaits new ownership. A controversial Channel 4 show filmed here in 2016 saw a previous change of management that same year.

More reliable than the Bridge if still a little worn, the Wortley House Hotel stands in its own grounds on the Brumby side of the station, with a restaurant and cocktail lounge.

Further out by Lakeside Parkway, the Premier Inn offers free parking, right by the A18 that bypasses the town centre for the stadium.