Apologies for the pun in the title, but it really holds water. Even if fire doesn’t! And you’ll soon realise why…

I thought I’d pen a few thoughts on a season preview for Scunthorpe United, as we attempt, (the prerogative word!), to build on last season’s rather disappointing 18th place finish post-relegation back to League One from the Championship. Plus, having gone to every single away cup and league match last season, (thanks to a mix of my bank overdraft & student loan!), I’d like to think I’m better placed than most to pontificate on where it went right, wrong and everywhere else in the middle for Scunthorpe United in 2011/2012.

But more importantly than all the above, as to what the occasionally mighty Iron can do to put it all right in 2012/2013 – and the developments / progress (if only!) thus far to achieve that aim. Don’t even mention the word promotion: it’s not even in our wildest fantasies at the minute!

Ask any Scunthorpe United supporter as to what moment of our summer thus far sticks out most of all, and absolutely all of them will say it was the heartbreaking release of club captain, and bona-fide legend, Cliff Byrne – after nine years of absolutely wonderful service for Scunthorpe United. He was certainly the biggest surprise of the release of ten players, and it prompted an unprecedented outpouring of emotion: both immediate and long-term from very grateful fans of Scunthorpe United.

Having originally signed for us on loan from Sunderland back in 2002, before going to star for nine years, 9 crucial goals, and 266 league games – he came to symbolise the dying idealism of a club, especially its players, being in touch with its fans and loyal to the last. A blood and thunder defender, comfortable at both Centre-Half and Right-Back, he was well known for giving supporters lifts back into town from the ground after games – and was an absolute born leader both on and off the pitch for us. A truly dying breed.

Indeed, he is due to complete his UEFA ‘A Licence’ coaching qualification over the summer, and it was expected that Cliffy would be with Scunny till the cows came home, rather like Ian Baraclough made the ultimate transition from player to captain to coach to manager. If only eh? Despite his release, I wouldn’t bet on him not returning at some point. Sadly, I haven’t won the EuroMillions yet – so I can’t do it myself!

Seriously though, upon announcing his signing for the Latics – Oldham manager Paul Dickov was waxing lyrical about all that Byrne will bring to the Lancashire club. The angry Scottish midget doesn’t know the half of it! No doubt the Oldham fans don’t know just how lucky they are!

Forgive the sentiment – but this is the power of football, and it is a dying experience for football fans. Even down at the lower league level. Just look at Fleetwood Town, and so many others – if you want to see the way that our once sacred national sport is going: at all levels. They say loyalty is non-existent from some of the players: and that’s probably right in fairness. But Scunthorpe United’s experiences of the summer of 2012 seem to show that it’s a two-way street after all!

Alan Knill, much to my dismay – seems to have been ridiculously non-apologetic about it. Byrne Baby Byrne as you chuck them on the fire you might say…

Alongside the nine other players that Scunthorpe United have released: ranging from Championship stalwarts Eddie Nolan, Garry Thompson, Michael O’Connor and Sam Togwell, to the USA soccer student done good Andy Wright, to our very own ‘Steve Harper’ Josh Lillis, to the simply disappointing Jordan Robertson and to the tragic youngsters of Aron Wint and Ashley Palmer.

There’s no doubt that the squad is going to be significantly trimmed down: although managing to create a tighter, more efficient, cheaper and successful unit is extraordinarily difficult at the best of times! Released by Swindon; Callum Kennedy comes in the building at left-back, and ought to be the type of young, hungry cliché that Alan Knill is desperately hunting for. Whether or not he can be a successful defender in League One is where the acid test lies.

The likes of Mike Grella and Christian Ribeiro though, fresh off the back from successful loan spells with Bury and ourselves respectably – provide decent potential for a competitive side in this league, but there needs to be more of them: and they needed to be provided with decent service. Released by Derby: the young James Severn comes in as understudy to our very own local lad done good Sam Slocombe. The former has zero competitive league experience, and the latter was signed from a local Saturday club for £3k. Significant question marks hover over them both – but that is symptomatic of the entire time really.

The fact that we’ve currently only got two full-backs on our books at all, 1 fit centre-half and can’t score more than a single goal in a game to save our lives, (having lost out on signing last year’s loanee cult hero Jon Parkin to Fleetwood), is trying to be swept under the carpet in what has been the singularly most un-ambitious pre-season transfer wise I’ve ever known. The hatful of undistinguished trialists hasn’t helped either. For Christ’s sake – Eugen Bopp has just been released by York!

Even on the pre-season tour of the Republic of Ireland that I attended, the number of trialists was perplexing – especially as none of them were any better than the likes of Byrne, Togwell et al. There’s nothing wrong with trying to rebuild, but a bit of continuity never goes amiss. I’ve long since given up on quality!

But so many questions reign supreme, on the basis we’re certainly shorter on numbers, and (for me) thinner on quality than we were last season – it certainly can’t bode well for 2012/2013. Not being a betting man, I don’t keep up to date with these things – but if you can get a decent price, Scunthorpe United being relegated is definitely well worth a cheeky punt.

Sorry Alan, sorry lads – I hope I’m wrong, I really hope I am… I just can’t see it.

Not that that’ll stop me being at Crawley away as the League One season kicks off mind though!

Without Cliff, and an extra sprinkling of quality for the Iron – I really do fear we’re about to Byrne Baby Byrne.

Written by Max Bell, We Are Going Up’s Scunthorpe United blogger

Max tweets at @UseTheLeftWing

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