Football: Scunthorpe harbour own lofty ambitions

Simon Turnbull returns to the roots of the new national coach
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The Independent Online
IT MAY have seemed a million metaphorical miles away from Wembley, but at Millmoor yesterday the club that launched Kevin Keegan's football career had serious qualifying business of their own to attend to. Never mind Euro 2000, they will be popping champagne corks in Scunny (well, unscrewing a few Tizer bottles, at least) if Scunthorpe United make it to the Nationwide Second Division 2000. Not that the promotion prospects of the Iron were greatly enhanced by the goal-less draw they fought with Rotherham United beneath the towering twin cranes of Booth's Scrapyard.

The aspirational goalposts have barely moved for Scunthorpe since the days when the little inside-right with the German helmet haircut had the scouts following their exploits in a Gang Show gaggle. Scunny never quite managed to escape from the Football League's basement division in the three seasons Keegan spent learning his trade with them before joining Liverpool for pounds 35,000 and pounds 50-a-week in a transfer deal Bill Shankly later confessed to being "daylight robbery with violence". But 28 years later they have a fighting chance of filling the Second Division place Keegan's present club side are set to vacate.

Victory yesterday would have put Scunthorpe third in the Third Division table. Climbing one place to fourth provided some consolation for Brian Laws, their button-bright young manager. But his team made such a dazzling start they threatened to emulate the famous 5-0 success Newcastle United enjoyed at Millmoor, with four goals from a curly-permed Keegan, back in 1982.

Laws had his players training at lunchtime all week to condition them to the 12.30pm kick-off dictated by local interest in game one of Keegan's national team caretakership. And they emerged from their pre-match huddle with their body clocks in 3pm Saturday mode.

They emerged with their very own Keegan clone, too. In physical terms, Jamie Forrester did not exactly stand head and shoulders above his colleagues and rivals but in terms of skill he was positively gargantuan. A chunky little dynamo, he could have scored twice in the opening two minutes and set up a stream of chances for his team-mates. Whether Scunthorpe can hold on to their latest prized asset, though, remains to be seen.

Like Keegan, who was spurned by Doncaster Rovers and Coventry City before he was spotted by Jack Brownsword, Scunthorpe's trainer, playing Sunday morning football for Pegler's Brassworks, Forrester has had his setbacks. He has been deemed surplus to requirements by both Leeds and Grimsby but, at 25, is showing his true pedigree - and topping the Third Division goalscoring chart.

In his time as Scunny's star man, Keegan would sit on the knee of the Evening Telegraph's travelling reporter and perform a ventriloquist's dummy routine on the coach to away games. He was not, however, the only future celebrity to perch on Tom Taylor's lap.

Tom's son, Graham, grew up to be an England manager too. A real turnip for the books, you might say.