Doncaster Rovers v Scunthorpe Utd, 3pm
24 November ~ Brian Laws' return for a third spell as manager of Scunthorpe United following the dismissal of the hapless Alan Knill three weeks ago has brought an upturn in results and attendances. The consequence of two wins from the last three league games has been a slight – in some cases grudging – return of the optimism that had been in danger of (un)naturally surrounding the club during a decade of overachievement. The team's recent poor performance levels have been raised – though Tuesday's defeat to Bury saw a slide back into the swamp – but the manager is still firmly on trial, such is the general dislike for him.
It could, in the end, just be over-familiarity or dislike for his techniques. In his previous ten years here there were countless tales of bullied players and occasional examples of really gifted players, such as winger Cleveland Taylor, seemingly having the flair coached out of them to concentrate on more prosaic defensive duties. But the dismal post-Nigel Adkins years, when Scunthorpe seemingly squandered an opportunity to consolidate at a higher level, may have proved something.
Perhaps the club actually needs a larger-than-life, love-hate soap opera character who can move it up a gear, as opposed to a man who can be knocked off his bike by a squirrel. Whether we need someone larger-than-Laws remains to be seen, but it's a start at least. The last couple of years have felt like an end.
Alan Knill was a decent sort of a chap – as was his predecessor, Ian Baraclough – but both sounded introverted and defensive, defeated, lost and flailing in post match interviews. Even if we'd won. From a position of unexpected achievement and opportunity, grey men in charge of the dressing room led the club down a spiral into black negativity. It began to feel as dismal around Glanford Park as it had at any time before Laws arrived in 1997, and the crowds had begun to flock… to the retail parks and garden centres surrounding the ground.
Laws does seem to have a genuine affinity with the place (he lives in the area, he’s married to a girl from the town and he has a close personal friendship with the current chairman), so he's in a strong professional position to tap for funds and higher-level support but, ultimately, the bread-and-butter results will tell. Laws always seemed able to raise things for what he once told me were "jam games". A morale-lifting thrashing of Doncaster today would be the perfect time to capitalise on his fairly decent start. Steve Askew