Saturday 3rd November 2018 ko 15.00
E.F.L. League 1
SCUNTHORPE UNITED 3 (Clarke 60 Thomas 64 Goode 66)
OXFORD UNITED 3 (Henry 8 Brannagan 50 Nelson 55)
Att 3,665 (383 away)
Entry £22 (away end, if bought in advance)
Last season I wrote a piece about Southend United describing them as the youngest of the old, Roots Hall was built in 1955 and no further Football League club moved home until Scunthorpe United moved from the Old Showground to Glanford Park in 1988. It is a curio as the club moved before the spur that encouraged other clubs to follow suit.
The Hillsborough Disaster in 1989 and the resulting Taylor Report a year later, forced football to take action to improve outmoded and in some cases dangerous stadia. You look at some aspects of Glanford Park, and you see the embryo of many of the ideas now present in modern stadia, in others you see areas that other clubs looked at what had been built at the end of the M181 and saw needed improving. I do wonder whether Taylor looked at Glanford Park and if so whether it influenced his thinking?
On one hand The Iron gave up an Old Showground home that had boasted English football’s first cantilevered stand, and although the ground sported a lot of terracing, this was a club that had played only from 1958-64 at Division 2 (second tier) level. What the move did was to get them a modern ground for £2.5 million with a small profit left over when the sale of the old ground had been factored in.
But I do have to say Glanford Park does come with a memory that still makes me shudder.
Oxford United have only won one major trophy, the League Cup in 1986 and the captain that day was Malcolm Shotton. He is a club icon, and returned to manage the club in 1998. Sadly he was unable to halt a decline in the club’s fortunes and by October 1999 a poor Oxford United side lost 1-0 at Scunthorpe and the pressure on Shotton was close to breaking point.
Now anyone who had been around in the era of Shotton the player just hoped for a dignified way out for him, but the younger fans showed no such restraint. I hated it when one young fan called him “Shit-ton” I could never imagine him in those terms, the warrior of the eighties didn’t deserve that. As it happened Shotton lasted just one more game before being sacked, but I’ll always see Glanford Park as being a place of despair for him, and on that day for me too. I suppose that’s why I didn’t return for nearly twenty years!
But what has the passage of 30 years done to Glanford Park? The answer is very little, and it remains a football ground designed and built for a club with little expectation of playing football above the bottom couple of divisions of the Football League. The concourses are cramped even for a small away following. Space is the issue here, make the place all seater and the the 9,088 capacity would be reduced to a barely realistic 7,000 or so. There is also the sad irony of the Iron moving from a ground featuring England’s first cantilevered stand to a stadium with none, and yes the stanchions do get in the way.
I did find the fact that although 3 England captains have played for Scunthorpe (can you name them?) the executive lounge is named after the England captain that didn’t actually play football for England. Sir Ian Botham played 11 times for the iron as a non-contract player between 1979-84, and is club president to this day.
They could expand here, just look at Walsall’s Bescot Stadium. That opened 2 years later than Glanford Park, was built to a very similar design to here but has now had an extra tier added behind one goal, and is now all-seater. That said the rather “Boxy” design doesn’t make for an easy conversion, and Walsall’s home does now look rather incongruous.
I suspect it was Scunthorpe’s elevation to the Championship in 2007 that pushed the club in the direction of looking at a new stadium. That stint only lasted a total of 3 seasons, but you can well imagine the club seeing vastly superior facilities on their travels and wanting similar for themselves.
The club looked at a 12,000 all-seater stadium as part of the Lincolnshire Lakes development, one exit along the M181 but the project fell through in October 2017 and now the club are looking to rebuild Glanford Park a stand at a time. The oddity of this place is although the stadium itself is cramped the parcel of land it sits on is generous; there is no lack of space to build something new here.
Now on one level, it is needed, the years have not been kind to here, and football stadia design has moved on a great deal. On the other, Glanford Park is an interesting piece of footballing history, in that it does give an accurate picture of what football 30 years ago thought a lower-league ground should look like. It’s the genesis of what eventually the likes of Walsall, Chester City and Wycombe Wanderers saw fit to build for themselves.
For all of that though, this was a good afternoon out. Scunthorpe’s short Remembrance Day service was beautifully executed, and as an Oxford United fan the first 60 minutes of the game was pretty good too! Football is, of course, all about confidence, and with the two struggling sides meeting perhaps Oxford’s 6 minute collapse wasn’t as shocking as it felt at the time. Certainly it was a good game for the neutral, if any were present.
Needless to say at the end I trudged back to the car disappointed, that’s the lot of the travelling fan I suppose. The big difference this time was the lack of anger and frustration. It wasn’t much fun watching your team throw away 2 points, but watching your icon suffer? That was far worse.
The other two England captains? Ray Clemence and Kevin Keegan.