Scunthorpe United keeper Sam Slocombe says Leon Clarke has X Factor but Iron are no one-man team
When it comes to critique on a Saturday night, Sam Slocombe could be easily ranked alongside Gary Barlow and Louis Walsh.
"I like to watch it now and again," he says of the X Factor, having tweeted a week ago that he was celebrating a first clean sheet of the season at Glanford Park by watching the reality TV show.
"I was a little bit disappointed last weekend that one of the guys didn't go through to the judges' houses. But it was nice to see the Scunthorpe boy through."
Saturday afternoons, it would appear, are just as heavily scrutinised.
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And like some of the decisions that follow later on in the day, they do not always make great viewing.
When it comes to critics, Slocombe is his own biggest.
Having conceded 14 goals in the first four matches of the campaign (five at Derby, in the Capital One Cup, three at Crawley, two against Crewe and four versus Yeovil) he admits it has not been a trouble-free start to the campaign.
"We have the games recorded, so I like to watch them back," he told the Telegraph.
"The first couple, I wasn't happy with at all – it felt like I wasn't making a save.
"I've gone back to Neil (Cutler) and I know what I've got to work on but he'll tell me what he thinks I have to improve as well.
"I'm always critical of a lot of things. I find it hard to look at my performances and think 'no, you've not done something wrong'.
"Sometimes there are games when you just can't do anything about it. But from my point of view, it's hard to say that."
Negativity is something Scunthorpe United's players have had to contend with quite a bit this season – which is still less than six weeks old.
Be it through being vocal at games, or simply by not attending, frustration at the Iron's worst start to a season in 49 years spilled from the stands onto the pitch.
Slocombe understood fans' feelings on the back of four successive defeats, but believes the past four games, which see Scunthorpe travel to Portsmouth tomorrow on the back of a four-match unbeaten run, are more reflective of the ability of the United squad.
"I feel quite positive every day," admitted the 24-year-old.
"It doesn't matter what goes on on the pitch on a particular afternoon, you're still the same player.
"The experienced lads who've come in have passed that on to the younger ones and we're a better team for it.
"We've got quite a strong group.
"Fans are going to be unhappy because we've lost games. That's obvious. We're the same.
"But we know we've got the capabilities to go and win.
"It wasn't hard to keep negativity out. It's just a case of critiquing it rather than letting it get to you.
"Looking at the first four games we played, we thought we should have picked more points up.
"I think the last four games reflect the quality we've got around the place, especially the few players we've brought in.
"There's no point papering over it. They've made a massive difference to us.
"It's really nice to have them in and see them performing."
For those who have somehow missed each of their telling contributions, the players Slocombe speaks of are midfielder David Prutton – a 'character' and 'great person to have around' in the words of the Iron custodian – and strike duo Karl Hawley and Leon Clarke.
Like the television programme that succeeds his Saturday scoring show, Clarke, the on-loan Charlton Athletic striker, has certainly provided the X Factor when it comes to improving the Iron's fortunes.
Scunthorpe are unbeaten in each of the four games he has played since he formed a new-look strike partnership with Hawley.
He has also scored in every one of his United appearances and now has four goals in four matches.
The fact the only goals Scunthorpe have netted since the former Sheffield Wednesday and Wolves forward arrived at Glanford Park have come via Clarke would suggest the Iron are becoming reliant on the 27-year-old.
Worringly for Portsmouth, and the rest of their League One rivals, Slocombe refutes any suggestions Scunthorpe are a one-man team.
"I think if you watch the games, especially the last couple, we've had a lot more chances that have not necessarily been because of Leon," he said.
"If they go in, you wouldn't be asking whether we're relying on him too much.
"I wouldn't say we rely on him, but I do think he enjoys being around the place and scoring goals.
"He gets in the right positions to take the chances.
"It's nice that he's scoring goals for us.
"Last year we didn't really have anyone that could do that, so we're hoping we can have it a lot longer than we expect."
Now looking much more difficult to break down – though the Iron were indebted to a smart second-half stop from Slocombe to deny Colchester United's Clinton Morrison from close range six days ago – Scunthorpe's newest number one suggests the trip to Portsmouth is a 'good game' for his side.
United have not won at Fratton Park since February 1964, but while their form seems to be improving, their hosts' fortunes are contrasting.
Dogged by off-the-field problems, struggling Pompey are League One's crisis club and while the battle to become their new owners rumbles on, on the pitch, the blues have lacked similar fight.
They go into tomorrow's match on the back of three successive defeats and were last week brushed aside 3-0 by in-form Notts County.
Slocombe though insists his side must focus only on themselves if they are to prosper.
"I think it's a good game for us to go play right now," said the Iron goalkeeper.
"We're in some good form and they're not.
"There's a lot of uncertainty at Portsmouth. They've got players on one month contracts, which must be tough, but let's not worry about it.
"They've got good players, so it will be a hard game and it will be a long trip.
"But the form we're in and with the capabilities of our squad, I believe we can go and win there."
A long trip indeed. Yet despite being stuck on the team coach, Slocombe will still enjoy his regular slice of Saturday night critique – albeit a little belated.
He won't miss the X Factor: "It'll be on record."