Scunthorpe United Preview - Away, Feb 20th
After a full seven days without a fixture, Watford head North to take on Nigel Adkins high-flying Scunthorpe United. The Iron have enjoyed their latest stab at Championship football much more than last time round when they were relegated in 2008. At present they sit in 17th spot and only recently did their bit to welcome Roberto Mancini to England with an enthralling close-run defeat against moneybags Manchester City.
But why shouldn`t Scunthorpe hold themselves amongst the footballing elite in the country that `gave the world the game`? For it was also Scunthorpe that gave the world former Liverpool and Hamburger SV maestro, not to mention twice European Footballer of the Year, Kevin Keegan. Ray Clemence also passed through the ranks at the Old Showground as did future England Test Cricketer, Ian 'Beefy` Botham, and last but not least, former 'Orn Neil Cox left the Iron to join Aston Villa for £1.5m and '1600 seats`!
Though the current crop may not be as familiar names as those mentioned above, in more recent times the likes of Martin Paterson, (now at Premier League Burnley) and Andy Keogh (at Premier League Wolverhampton Wanderers) have both gotten their careers on track before leaving for bigger things, so there`s nothing to say the current crop wont be flying the Humberside club any time soon.
Likely candidates include 'keeper Joe Murphy who has been a revelation since signing on a free transfer from West Brom back in 2006. He`s since gone on to make 155 starts for the club and is strongly tipped for a Republic of Ireland re-call having won just one cap in seven years for the Eire. After winning promotion with the Iron again in 2009 he was awarded a place in the League One team of the season and penned a new deal which could be extended until 2011 if Adkins side stay in the Coca Cola Championship this time round.
Central to United`s chances of remaining at this level are creative midfielders Martyn Woolford and Matt Sparrow. Woolford in particular is living the dream having only since moved from York City in 2008 after making his name at Frickley Athletic. In his short career the 24 year-old has picked up two England 'C` caps and was pivotal to the Iron winning last year`s Play Off Final against Kenny Jackett`s Millwall. Sparrow is the local boy of the side, despite having been born in Wembley; and graduated from the club`s Academy in 1999. He has since gone on to make 318 appearances for the Lincolnshire outfit and is comfortable anywhere across the midfield.
Up top the goals of Gary Hooper and Paul Hayes will be critical if Scunny are to remain in their current mid-table position of safety. Hayes is now in his second spell at Glanford Park having bagged 27 from just 99 in his first spell and having returned two years after leaving he`s gone on to grab another 28 from 112. Twenty-two year old Hooper has been heavily linked with Queens Park Rangers of late having made his breakthrough out Essex outfit, Grays Athletic. Just two goals in 32 league appearances at parent club Southend saw him move on to join Scunthorpe in 2008 where he has found his feet. An impressive 33 league goals in just 67 appearances have followed and bigger things seem destined for the Loughton born forward who was a snip at just 125k.
Captain Cliff Byrne is welcomed back from suspension for Adkins` men whilst Garry Thompson looks set to miss out due to a hamstring problem. Watford have no injury concerns with Tom Cleverley back in the fold.
Likely Scunthorpe XI
Byrne (c) Jones Raynes Williams
Sparrow Wright Togwell Woolford
Likely Watford XI
Mariappa Taylor DeMerit (c) Doyley
Cowie Lansbury Eustace Cleverley