Here’s why to back outsiders Scunthorpe United for League One title
Barnsley slipped under the radar last season, mounting a spectacular run to sneak into the play-offs on the final day before going on to win promotion from League One.
But the team they pipped to the final spot on that day, Scunthorpe United, were on a similar rise. And this year, they look well-equipped to take the league by storm.
Boss Graham Alexander has recruited superbly over the summer, with a trio of stellar midfield buys catching the eye.
Central midfielder Sam Mantom arrives from Walsall with the ability to both break-up play and make an impact at the other end, scoring nine goals for the Saddlers last season.
Meanwhile, the tricky Josh Morris adds depth and quality on the left, following a series of impressive displays for Bradford City last season, while American youngster Duane Holmes arrives following a handful of exciting showings for Huddersfield Town during the past two years.
Star striker staying
However, the most pleasing news of the summer for Iron fans will surely be the club holding onto prolific hitman Paddy Madden – the club’s top scorer in each of the past two seasons.
Arguably at the peak of his career, the Republic of Ireland international netted a career-high 20 goals in League One last time out, as well as chipping in with an impressive seven assists.
Probably the most naturally gifted finisher in the division, his clever footwork and accurate passing make him an absolutely integral part of this side. And recent evidence suggests he’s only going to get better.
They finished last season superbly
Momentum is very much with the Iron right now, following six wins on the spin at the end of the 2015-16 campaign, including victory over the Brewers and a comprehensive 2-0 triumph against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Having kept onto key men like Madden, Jack King and reliable keeper Luke Daniels, the core of that side is still at Glanford Park ahead of the coming campaign, meaning they can begin this campaign with the defensive steel and attacking firepower they showed in the latter weeks of last season.
It also helps that Scunthorpe have a system which the players know – and know works. Their most successful patch of last season saw the Lincolnshire outfit playing a flat 4-4-2, with pacy strikers Madden and Kyle Wootton regularly breaking the opposition’s offside traps to great effect.
The teams coming down will struggle
While any side looking to progress in League One would usually be up against a number of strong outfits coming down from the Championship, Scunthorpe’s path to a potential title looks unusually straightforward.
Bolton Wanderers are likely to have a season aimed at stability and balancing the books, while Charlton Athletic remain in disarray and last season’s lowest scorers MK Dons have failed to buy a striker, while forward Alex Revell has left the club.
With Alexander having already notched one promotion from the Football League in recent years – at Fleetwood Town in 2013-14 – there’s plenty of reason to believe the Iron boss could be adding a League One winners medal to his cabinet at the end of this season.
They begin the season by welcoming newly-promoted Bristol Rovers to Glanford Park, with 6/5 for Alexander’s men to hit the ground running with a win.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing