SCUNTHORPE UNITED are a club with a long history but not one with a long history of success. Only once in 94 years has there been a need for a trophy cabinet to be part of the furniture. That was in 1958, when they were Third Division (North) champions.
There was a hint last year, however, that someone might need to start looking for the key. Under the guidance of Brian Laws, who became manager in February 1997, they finished eighth, just short of making the Third Division play-offs. It was their best effort since 1988.
Determined to show it was no flash in the pan, Scunthorpe have this season won seven of their first 10 matches. At this level, to succeed takes real management, in its most basic, stripped-down form. There is no cheque book to fall back on. The most Laws has spent on a player is the pounds 50,000 he paid Grimsby for Jamie Forrester.
So rather than disposing of financial resources, the secret lies in maximising human resources, of utilising talent as is available within its limits. This is where Laws is succeeding.
Not that he presides over a team of duffers. Forrester, for example, won a FA Youth Cup medal with Leeds, having played in a side who beat a Manchester United team thought to be invincible. Chris Hope, the captain, and midfielder Justin Walker, were on Nottingham Forest's books. And Alex Calvo-Garcia, a Spanish goalscoring midfielder, was a junior with Real Sociedad.
The 26-year-old Spaniard amply demonstrated his abilities on Saturday, volleying home the goal that seemed to have secured the points until Alex Burns matched it eight minutes from the end. Calvo-Garcia's strike left Laws required to fulfil an embarrassing pledge to expose his backside in the town centre should his charge find the target from outside the box. Only John Eyre outshone Calvo-Garcia.
Goals: Calvo-Garcia (35) 1-0; Burns (82) 1-1.
Scunthorpe United (4-4-2): Clarke; Fickling, Hope, Wilcox, Housham; Eyre, Logan, Walker, Calvo-Garcia; Gayle (Stamp, 64), Forrester. Substitutes not used: Harsley, Bull.
Southend United (4-4-2): Margetson; Morley, Newman, Coleman, Stimson (Jones, 35); Burns, Beard, Livett (Clarke, 76), Fitzpatrick; Whyte, Conlon. Substitutes not used: Roget.
Referee: G Laws (Whitley Bay).
Bookings: Southend: Burns.
Man of the match: Eyre.