Matty Holt looks ahead to the 20/21 season curtain raiser – a Carabao Cup first round tie against Port Vale.

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Iron will kick off their 2020/21 campaign this afternoon as they play host to Port Vale in the first round of the Carabao Cup.

The game will be a first for many reasons. It will be the first competitive game Scunthorpe play behind closed doors at the Sands Venue Stadium and will be Neil Cox’s first game as manager, after returning to his home town club where he began his playing career.

It’s been a huge summer for the Iron, with numerous comings and goings, financial constraints and san ongoing pandemic. It seems crazy to think that so much has changed in what has only been six months of the year.

Cox has conjured up his first Scunthorpe masterplan and admits he has already decideD which eleven players will get the nod going into today’s 3pm kick off.

One given will be the inclusion of Alex Gillead, who has been named the stand-in skipper as Jordan Clarke faces time on the treatment table with a troublesome calf injury. Which position Gilliead fills remains to seen, as we’ve seen the ex-Newcastle man deployed in a multitude of different positions since signing last summer.

It may be a slight switch from the wide positions he occupied last season, with the focus on a more central role that he grew into before last season was curtailed.

Kevin van Veen’s operation took place yesterday following his pre-season set back and he will miss out along with Emmanuel Onariase, Harrison McGahey and Olufela Olomola who have also been ruled out for Saturdays tie with the Valiant’s.

Rory Watson is most likely to start in goal for the Iron as he looks to cement his position as Scunthorpe’s number one heading into the new campaign. Rory has again faced much criticism from the Iron faithful and will be hoping to start as he means to go on with a victory, clean sheet and progression into the second round come 5pm this evening.

In defence is where the headaches begin to start for Cox and Lillis. Lewis Butroid and Jacob Bedeau are likely to be included and partnering Bedeau for the very first time could be on loan Bournemouth defender Tyler Cordner.

It will be a first Football League appearance for the 21 year old should he get the nod- his  only other playing pedigree has come at National League level, with two spells at Havant & Waterloovile and Ebbsfleet United respectively.

Cordner has been described as a ball playing centre back by his admirers and signed a brand new deal with the Cherries before being loaned out to the Iron just last month.

In midfield, Abo Eisa looked the only real shining light from the 4-0 friendly drubbing at Lincoln last week. The forward has been linked with a move away from the Sands Venue in recent weeks and will be hoping to kick on following a fruitful first season with Scunthorpe after his move from Shrewsbury last summer.

Centrally, we could see a linkup between Lewis Spence and Frank Vincent. Spence has been described as a gritty ball winner who loves a tackle and does have some football league pedigree in the Scottish Premier League.

As for Frank, again a player we know very little about apart from the odd clip on social media of what seems to be some excellent passing ability. The 21-year-old again has received high praise from fans of Torquay United after two successful loan spells with The Gulls.

On the other flank, Ryan Colclough is a player I am hoping to see get a real good run in this Iron side. Personally, if Ryan can emulate some of the fantastic form we saw him produce for Wigan just a few seasons ago, there is no reason he cannot be one of the first names on the team sheet week in week out for Neil Cox.

As for forwards, the Iron are spoilt for choice. Cox has personally admitted he would favour a two striker set up this season and he has plenty to choose from heading into the tie.

John McAtee’s willingness to take on a man and get into the faces of the backline with his superb ball control and trickery should see him included.

As for a strike partner, it’s a toss-up between ex-Villa youngster Kelsey Mooney and former Carlisle forward Ryan Loft. Mooney seems the more likely option and has featured in every preseason game so far for the Iron. A quick, nimble and bulky centre forward, Kelsey will be looking to kick on following a decent spell with Hereford United last season.

Ryan Loft however, offers something a little different. At 6ft 3”, Loft is undoubtedly a target man who will look to hold up the play and bring others into the game. He’s no stranger to Iron fans either, netting smartly past Watson in our 1-0 home defeat to Carlisle back in August last year.

A new chapter beckons at Scunthorpe United and none of us know how things will pan out. All I know for certain is, come 3pm on Saturday, there’s no other side I’d rather be cheering on. Here’s to another topsy-turvy 7 months, supporting our beloved Scunthorpe United.