It was a bitterly disappointing end to the season for the Iron, as relegation was confirmed to League Two following four defeats in their last five matches. The writing has been on the wall for some time after a manager, and the reluctance to secure a goalscorer meant the United were in danger all season.
The club finished in 23rd position with one of the worst goal differences in the league; with only Rochdale conceding more than the Iron’s final tally of 83. Hopes may not have been sky-high at the beginning of the season, but few could have seen this disaster coming. The loan signings of Cameron Borthwick-Jackson from Manchester United and Stephen Humphrys did little to turn the tide, and the impact that was needed by summer signings of Tom Hopper and Luke Williams was sorely missing. But what should be the main factors that the Iron’s should look to sort out if they are to build a promotion push next season?
- Fixing the goalkeeper situation
The main reason for a high amount of goals being conceded last season was down to the goalkeeping situation. Rory Watson looked set to become the first-choice goalkeeper, but injuries to him and Matt Gilks meant that the Iron’s were scrapping around looking for a reliable keeper that could keep them in the league.
The loan signing of Jan Alnwick was an inspired move since the shot-stopper never looked like forcing his way into Steven Gerrard’s Rangers team. He was an ever-present for the remainder of the season following his loan move in August. However, despite the keeper enjoying his time at United and being open for a permanent move to the club, it seems unlikely that he will be signed as a second-choice option.
There are still doubts surrounding Alnwick as he has been prone to errors and doesn’t command his box as much as an experienced goalkeeper should. It is expected that Watson will make a full recovery in time for pre-season, but the new manager should decide on the route he wishes to take, regarding the goalkeeper before the first ball is kicked during the off-season.
All four strikers have contracts at the club that will run until at least the end of next season, so that would leave managers preference as the deciding factor. Lee Novak enjoyed a decent return with 13 goals in all competitions, and should he receive better service then he will likely improve on that. However, the deciding aspect that condemned the club to relegation was their inability to hit the back of the net, and that is something that needs to change.
Kyle Wooton, Kevin van Veen and Olufela Olomola still need to convince the Iron’s faithful that they are capable of performing at the standard that is required; with none of them looking like natural strikers last season. Gary Hooper remains on the lookout for a new club and should the 31-year-old look at rebuilding his career then a return to Scunthorpe would be an easy place to start.
It remains unlikely that this is a move that could happen, but should we reach the final stages of the transfer window and there have been no takers on the striker, then United could offer an attractive route back to the top him.
The merry-go-round of managers last season at Glanford Park was nothing short of embarrassing for the club. Nick Daws started the season, only to be released by August before Stuart McCall took the hot seat for seven months before his departure following a defeat to Rochdale. The writing was already on the wall, and Andy Dawson was brought in to save the sinking ship. However, two points in seven games were a sign that the club was already down. In truth, the club were already rooted to be at the bottom in the soccer bet markets, when his appointment was made.
This is a problem that the club have acted quickly on, and the appointment of Paul Hurst was a promising sign. The former left-back has enjoyed success with Grimsby and Shrewsbury Town; where he led the latter to the playoff finals in 2018. A disastrous time at Ipswich followed this, as he wasn’t given a fair chance at the club and was fired after five months in charge. He has the talent to succeed, and hopefully, he will realise that at Glanford Park.