Chris Sumpter blog: It would be great if Iron could re-establish links with Manchester United and Chelsea
I WAS really chuffed to see Scunthorpe United sign James Alabi on loan from Stoke City this week.
Not because the teenager is a dead cert to fire the Iron to League One safety - though of course I hope that proves to be the case.
No, the most pleasing aspect of the striker's loan switch is that it suggests the Iron are perfectly placed to forge a worthwhile link with the Potters.
“Brian (Laws) and I both know Tony (Stoke boss Tony Pulis) really well and he's very accommodating. Hopefully something more might come out of it," said Russ Wilcox, Laws' assistant, this week after an Iron team had been beaten in a behind-closed-doors match at the Britannia Stadium.
In Alabi it already has.
It would be nice to think too that Scunthorpe will, as time passes, be able to take a few more of the Potters' potential stars.
As the need to be frugal with finances in football continues to increase, clubs, in the lower couple of divisions particularly, are likely to only be as good as their contacts.
Scunthorpe have, in the past, been well-stocked in that department.
Close links were forged with Chelsea during Nigel Adkins' time as manager.
They led to Jack Cork memorably spending the whole of the 2007/08 season at Glanford Park - and he impressed so much that he took the club's player of the year award with him back to Stamford Bridge - and Ben Gordon a couple of campaigns later.
After Cork came Henri Lansbury, from Arsenal, another example of top young English talent. Many who watched him play for Scunthorpe thought would have become a performer on a much higher stage than has so far been the case.
Even last season, during Alan Knill's difficult reign as boss at Glanford Park, there was the opportunity to regularly visit Manchester United's Carrington training ground, a link which saw midfielder Oliver Norwood and keeper Sam Johnstone spend time with United.
Playing for Stoke doesn't provide the kudos of that aforementioned trio - indeed, as Premier League names go, they're one of the most unfashionable - but their Academy has nurtured the likes of Andy Wilkinson and Ryan Shotton, both of whom have come through to play for the Potters in the top flight, and Celtic's Scottish international Kris Commons.
Taking a punt on Premier League youngsters is invariably a gamble.
For every Cork there's an Abdi Ibrahim, the Manchester City rookie who struggled for game time and to make an impression when recruited by Ian Baraclough (probably the reason why the Iron have not been offered more of the Blues' Academy regulars).
But in Scunthorpe's position it's worth the risk, particularly if it comes at no cost, as in Alabi's case.
Here's hoping the 18-year-old plays many games and scores just as many goals - he's certainly highly thought of by those who see him in action regularly and the fact he's already a regular starter for Stoke's Under-21s suggests he has something about him.
If he doesn't, forging links with the Potters should mean the Iron can simply move on to the next one.