In an exclusive link up, VMC meets Iron-Bru.net’s Luke Thornhill, the assistant sports editor of ‘The National’ newspaper in Abu Dhabi to discuss all things MCFC v SUFC…
1. Newly promoted Championship side Scunthorpe United head to Manchester this week for a League Cup Last 16 clash having beaten Port Vale 2-0 in the Third Round. ‘The Iron’ have had some erratic results in the league this season thus far.
For example, beating Sheffield United and Newcastle one week then losing at Peterborough a few days later. How’s life at Glanford Park this year after some eventful recent seasons?
‘We’re enjoying life right now. There’s a belief in the players and management, and although some supporters will always grumble about the boardroom it is hard to argue against this being our most successful period as a club since the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In the early 60s we established ourselves in the old Division Two (what is now the Championship) and even managed a fourth-place finish – though that came after we faded away following the controversial sale of our star striker Barrie Thomas to Newcastle. Liverpool won the league that season, whatever happened to them anyway?’
2. Nigel Adkins, former Bangor City gaffer and your own former physio is now The Iron manager. How far do you think the erstwhile Wigan goalkeeper can take you and can you become an established Championship force?
‘I would go so far as to say he is the best manager we’ve had while I’ve been a supporter. Certainly the stats back that up – under him we won League One, albeit with him replacing Brian Laws pre-Christmas, were relegated but bounced back via a winning the play-offs.
‘As those records suggest life has been eventful under him and we have a frustrating habit of following good performances with very sluggish ones. Never has that been illustrated better than our last three league games: we outclassed Sheffield United and were deserved victors over Newcastle, but may as well have not bothered turning up at London Road on Saturday as we lost 3-0 to Peterborough.
‘We’ve had a good start this year and will be confident of staying up. But, as many Iron fans will be all too aware, this time two years ago we actually had more points and ended up finishing second from bottom: we know how easily it can all go wrong, but we’ve showed signs of learning from last time and are better at grinding out results.’
3. What is your impression of The Premier League and all the loot ladened glamour it is awash with?
‘The Premier League: not interested, thank you. It is so far removed from my idea of football that I genuinely take no interest.
‘Same with the bloated Champions League: last year I watched one game in Europe’s top club competition, and that was the final. The league is uncompetitive and I find myself much more drawn to the lower leagues and below for my interest in the game. What I want from football is not to win all the time, it is to leave knowing I or my side gave their all. I love watching football on a terrace with a pie and Bovril, I hate the sanitised version where you pay extortionate prices and can easily spend £50 per person on a match.’
4. ‘Shot by both sides:’ The Dangermen. Who should Scunthorpe and in turn City, be paying close attention to at the City of Manchester Stadium on Wednesday night?
‘Who should we be watching? I can’t imagine Mark Hughes will play a weakened side against us so quite frankly everyone.
‘City’s first-team should man for man be better quality than ours: which is where our organisation will be so important.
‘As for our dangermen: Gary Hooper is the man who gets most of our goals. I’m a big fan of Paul Hayes, who tends to play just behind him reminiscent of Peter Beardsley and Gary Lineker, and the winger Martyn Woolford (who scored both against Newcastle). Our goalkeeper, Joe Murphy, is one of Shay Given’s deputies in the Republic of Ireland scene.’
5. Everyone at Manchester City from pitch to state of the art turnstile are very publicly aiming to take on and destabilise the seemingly endless, increasingly boring procession of The Premier League’s ‘Big Four’ – Looking at the situation from the Championship do you think it can be done?
‘It can and will be done. I do not understand why so many supporters (and the media) think it won’t.
‘Every dynasty in the game has come undone: Liverpool are a shadow of their side in the 70s/80s. A few decades ago people were looking at clubs like Preston and Blackpool and wondering how they could ever stop them.
‘If you look at the four: United will lose their manager sometime in the next few years and have to deal with that; Liverpool as mentioned above seem to always be nearly men; Chelsea have a transfer embargo to deal with and Arsenal under Arsene Wenger will always be a side who play stunning football but who can be intimidated.
‘Will it be City? I think Aston Villa have more chance this season, Martin O’Neill has had much longer to build his side than Hughes has, but teams like yourself and Everton certainly have every chance of being in the Champions League over the next four or five years.’
6. Here’s a question we are canvassing across our opponents this season. Are The Citizens guilty of ‘ruining football,’ one of the more hysterical charges levelled at the club throughout 2009?
‘What’s the difference between what Sheikh Mansour has done and Roman Abramovich? I don’t see any.
‘I like the fact he has apparently still let Hughes decide on transfer targets, which is something Abramovich clearly has not always done (Andriy Schevchenko anyone?)
‘As a football fan, though, I’d love to see one of these mega-rich owners take a slightly different tack. That is to plough a lot of money into youth development and community schemes and say that success in these teams and helping the area is equally important.
‘Imagine how much fun it would be in 15 years time if you had young players coming through who were born and raised in your area and nurtured through a stunning academy.’
7. And so to battle. Your match prediction?
Well, I’m not going to predict us to lose, so we’ll sneak it 3-2 after extra-time!
Luke Thornhill is editor of Iron-Bru.net and assistant sports editor of The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi.
Very many thanks to Luke and the team at IRON-BRU.net for this superb interview.
VMC Link: IRON-BRU.net
VMC link: The National, Abu Dhabi
Deadly Sinners so far this season:
Blackburn Rovers: Mikey D
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Akela
Arsenal: Paul Mustchin
Manchester united: Nobby Allcock
West Ham: Rossy
Aston Villa: The Fear
Wigan Athetic: Worbo
Fulham: Andrew Joyce
Scunthorpe: Luke Thornhill
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