Uniting opinion: The unlikely lads of Scunthorpe United that proving their worth
Few could have predicted the players that have taken centre stage in what has been a week to remember for Scunthorpe United. The Telegraph’s CHRIS SUMPTER looks at three unlikely members of the Iron squad whose contributions have made them key to the club's ambitions of League One survival
THE beauty of football, aside from the obvious fantasy footwork or THE best goal you've ever seen (since THE best goal you'd previously ever seen), is opinion.
Even though it has a habit of proving you wrong.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
I remember a conversation with a colleague in October when, having earlier that day spoken to Alan Knill, the then manager of Scunthorpe United, the subject of Michael Collins came up.
Knill, always honest when it came to player assessment, had eulogised about Collins' contribution in training and his attitude after spending 14 months out injured with tendinopathy and an Achilles problem.
He trotted out one of football's favourite cliches, about how having the 26-year-old back in contention would be like 'signing a new player'. He also expected him to make an instant impact.
"When you watch him work, he's like a beast in the gym," said Knill at the time.
"He looks so determined. Obviously he's making up for lost time.
"I think he wants to prove to everybody that the player we signed from Huddersfield for quite a lot of money is there."
My conversation with a colleague never made it to print, but while the phrasing may be different the general gist was the fact Scunthorpe were pinning so much hope on a player who had been sidelined for so long, and who had never quite lived up to the expectation placed on him by Nigel Adkins, underlined how much of a struggle the season had become.
I maintain that at that stage of the campaign, Scunthorpe United had not seen the best of Collins. But they have now.
Since the turn of the year, he has been exceptional.
By his own admission he has matured as a player and grown into as much of a model performer on the pitch as he is a person off it.
Collins has been the heartbeat of the Iron's recent revival, never more so than in the memorable moments fans have enjoyed in the past week.
Back at Glanford Park as part of the club's celebrations for 100 years of professional football, Cliff Byrne was asked to pick a man of the match on behalf of chairman Steve Wharton, who sponsored the match.
On a night of a fantastic team effort, he singled out Collins.
"He broke up a lot of their play and rarely gave the ball away in possession," said Byrne. But there was no need for any justification.
Collins has industry and class. He arrived at Scunthorpe, from Huddersfield Town, with a reputation for being neat and tidy on the ball and was billed as being able to offer the craft to replace Preston-bound Paul Hayes.
Yet it is in a more defensive role the Yorkshireman has excelled.
Collins' contribution, which has become more and more prominent since he first appeared as a substitute at Swindon Town at the end of October, has been laudable, but perhaps, on the face of how the season is shaping up, not as much of a surprise as you may think.
Fans of United have become accustomed to individual brilliance in recent times. This year the focus has had to centre on what can be achieved as a team.
Three players, of which Collins is one, have begun to form a perhaps unlikely alliance when it comes to praise.
The others complete the spine of a hard-working United side, Tom Newey and Karl Hawley.
Scour the terraces and you won't find those names on the back of supporters' shirts. There are no slogan-filled, fan-produced T-shirts to rival those 'Hooperman' and 'Feed the Beast' efforts either.
But be it in conversation, or in the form of post-match awards, each of the trio has become a pertinent performer.
Newey's rise mirrors that of Collins. He was signed in the summer, on a free transfer, after being shown the door by League Two side Rotherham United.
Having spent more than a month on trial to try to win a contract, the 30-year-old was rewarded with a year-long deal, but told in no uncertain terms that he had been brought in firmly as back-up.
Injuries and a lack of options meant Newey started the season's opener at Crawley Town. He has missed only one match since.
Be it at centre-back, left-back or in his current role on the right hand side of a much steadier back four, Newey has put in the same standard of performance week after week.
His willingness to get forward (and produce a curling left foot shot that bounced only inches wide of the target on Tuesday) while having the knowledge and positional sense to avoid being exposed defensively is reminiscent of Brazilian great Cafu – though that's probably written with tongue firmly in cheek.
And so to Hawley. The quiet man with a point to prove.
Whether he can rediscover the sort of goalscoring form he produced earlier in his career, at Carlisle United, is doubtful, but he has certainly allowed others to flourish.
Boss Brian Laws said only a fortnight ago that Hawley has the ability to net more goals than he has so far in Iron colours, but if he continues to contribute in terms of his all round performance, there will be no complaints.
Hawley is not quite the main man, but he is a link man.
His ability to hold up play and his aerial presence provided the perfect foil for Leon Clarke, when the on-loan Charlton striker netted 11 times in 15 games during the first half of the campaign.
Now Hawley is proving to be an equally creative partner for Akpo Sodje.
The Iron are the 10th club of the striker's career. After his time with the Cumbrians, this is surely the most enjoyable spell of that time too.
While you get the sense Hawley is someone who would love the limelight, he is happy to let others bask in it if it is for the good of the team.
The skill with which he controlled the ball and turned in stoppage time against his former club on Tuesday was excellent, equally was the vision and execution he displayed to put Sodje in for a match-clinching third goal.
This, too, from someone who didn't have a club at the start of the season.
Scunthorpe need Hawley to maintain such levels of unselfishness, just as much as they need Newey to work hard and Collins to keep things simple and calm in the middle of the park.
Unlikely figureheads they may have become, but each continues to prove opinions wrong. Long may it continue.