Scunthorpe United

Humber Museums Partnership - Scunthorpe United

About Scunthorpe United


This exhibition is a celebration of the history of one of Scunthorpe’s oldest organisations, Scunthorpe United Football Club, which was formed in 1899. As Scunthorpe grew, so did the club, culminating in the success and optimism of the 1950s and 60s. The team’s fortunes declined during the recession-hit 1970s, but the farsighted move to a new purpose-built ground at Glanford Park in 1988 provided the platform for its recent success.

Scunthorpe United is a small town club, with limited resources. It cannot claim to have been as successful on the pitch as some others, although it has had its moments, sometimes in Cup competitions. Nevertheless, it has never had a major financial crisis, or looked like returning to non-League football.

The cold listing of results, performances and League positions does scant justice to the club’s history. It omits to mention all the colourful characters, vibrant personalities and sometimes quirky incidents from its past. It is these that have made supporting Scunthorpe United so entertaining and interesting for thousands of local people. Long may this continue, and good luck to the team in future seasons.

Thank you to Scunthorpe United and Study United FC for all their contributions and support during this project.

In the Beginning

Organised football originally began in the 1850s in public schools and universities. It had become a national sport with fixed rules when the first FA Cup competition was held in 1871. The Lincolnshire Cup started in the 1881-2 season, and a club called Scunthorpe Town was playing competitive matches in 1885.

Scunthorpe United FC was formed on 29 August 1899 by an amalgamation of local clubs, including Brumby Hall. They began playing at Brumby Hall’s old playing field on Doncaster Road, which became known as the ‘Old Showground’. The Church’s influence on the development of local football was strong at that time. Reverend E.M. Weighall, the vicar of Frodingham, and his successor, the Reverend Cyprian T. Rust, were heavily involved with the club.

In 1912, Reverend Rust described the club as a ‘tough nut to crack’. This gave rise to their first nickname, the Knuts. The other leading club in the district was North Lindsey United, founded by a local solicitor, Reginald Symes, in around 1902.

The two clubs met in cup competitions and in the Lindsey League. They combined on 1 June 1910 to form Scunthorpe & Lindsey United, with the aim of joining the Midland League. When this duly occurred on 6 June 1912, the enthusiasm it generated was immense. So much so that several hundred supporters went by train to see their first away game at Leeds. The rest, as they say, is history.

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  • A charabanc party of Scunthorpe and Lindsey United supporters, 1923.

  • North Lindsey United, 1903-4. Its founder, Reginald Symes, can be seen third from left on the back row.

  • Scunthorpe and Lindsey United, 1911-12. This was the last season before they joined the Midland League.

  • The first club in the Scunthorpe area was Scunthorpe Town, seen here in 1887.

Derby Games

Matches between Premiership rivals Manchester City and Manchester United are fiercely contested, but smaller clubs like Scunthorpe also have their own derby matches. For many fans, they are the games they most look forward to, with large crowds, electric atmospheres, and no quarter given on the pitch. No matter that they often result in dull stalemates!

Traditionally, Scunthorpe’s greatest rival was Grimsby Town. In the old Second Division and Third Division days, there were sterling encounters, which attracted crowds of over 10,000. Unfortunately, since then the fluctuating performances of both teams have rarely seen them in the same Division.

Games against Doncaster Rovers and Lincoln City never generated the same level of intensity. This has changed recently, with both Scunthorpe and Doncaster currently meeting in the Championship. Since the opening of the Humber Bridge in 1981, games against Hull City have also become local derbies. Young supporter Phillip Michael sums up the feelings of most fans when he says:

‘If we get a good result I’m always happy, especially if it’s against someone like Hull or Grimsby…It’s always nice to get one over your rivals’

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  • A pre-season friendly against Grimsby Town, 16 August 1984.

  • Hull City against Scunthorpe United during an away game, 26 February 1983.

  • Les Hunter in action against Grimsby Town in a 3rd round FA Cup game, 1983.

  • United striker Jason White takes on the Lincoln City defence at Glanford Park.

Jack Brownsword

If anyone deserved the right to be called ‘Mr Scunthorpe United’, it was Jack Brownsword. He is a player who automatically features in everyone’s list of all time great Scunthorpe United players.

Jack was a left back who played 780 times for Scunthorpe United, a record that is unlikely ever to be surpassed. He sadly passed away in 2009 at the age of 86, but his name lives on in ‘Jack Brownsword Way’, the approach road to Glanford Park.

Jack started his career in 1947, when Scunthorpe United were still in the Midland League. In 1950 he played in Scunthorpe United’s first ever Football League match. He made 597 League appearances for Scunthorpe United, as well as Cup games, before retiring to become a coach in 1964.

Jack could easily have played in the old First Division. Many, including former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, regarded him as the best left back never to have played for England. He was also a penalty expert, scoring 49 times from the spot. His only other goal was a mistimed cross against Southampton in 1964. As a coach, he mentored Kevin Keagan in the early years of his career.

Above all, Jack Brownsword was a model professional and a gentleman, and is sorely missed.

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  • Jack Brownsword and Jeff Barker practicing dead ball kicks.

  • Jack Brownsword and John Duncan before a friendly match between Liverpool and an all-star team chosen by him.

  • Scunthorpe United team celebrating victory against Newcastle in the 4th round of the FA Cup, 1958. Jack Brownsword is second from left.

  • Team photograph taken around 1950. Jack Brownsword is third from right on the back row.

The Old Showground

Many younger Scunthorpe United fans will not have seen them perform at their former ground, the ‘Old Showground’ on Doncaster Road. The last match to be played there before the move to Glanford Park was a Fourth Division play-off semi-final against Torquay United on 18 May 1988.

The ‘Old Showground’ was the club’s first home after it was formed in 1899. It was on land used by Scunthorpe Agricultural Society for their annual show, hence the name.

The first stand seating was erected in 1912 at a cost of £100. It held 340 spectators. At first the land was rented from the Parkinson family, but in 1921 the club’s directors bought it for £2,500, along with a further payment to the local Council. It was then gradually developed into a 23,000 capacity stadium, with floodlighting added in 1957.

The most striking feature of the ground was the east stand, which was erected in 1958 to replace a wooden one lost in a fire. It was the first cantilever stand in the country, seating 2,351 spectators. The facilities at the ground were better than those of many similar clubs, even in the later years.

Brian Edwards, who began supporting Scunthorpe United in 1975 says:

‘The Old Showground was quite a good stadium, because all four sides were concrete, and all four sides were covered. At the old Belle Vue stadium (Doncaster Rovers’ former ground), I always used to joke, when they got a bigger crowd, they brought this heap of slag in to make it a bit higher !’


Since the introduction of third and fourth place play-off finals, fans of smaller clubs have had the opportunity to see their side grace the hallowed turf of Wembley.

Scunthorpe United have now played twice at the old stadium in the fourth tier play-off finals of 1992 and 1999. They played at the new Wembley twice, in the Johnstone’s Paint trophy and then in the First Division play-off final in 2009.

Win or lose, for the club’s fans, officials and players, a day out at the home of football is an unforgettable occasion.

Shaun Pashley began supporting in the 1980s and recalls:
‘When I went to Wembley, went to see the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, I know they lost, but there was a nice atmosphere, an electric atmosphere…It’s nice to see people getting up at half past four, or five o’clock in the morning, thirty odd buses in the car park and everybody raring to go.’

On their four visits, Scunthorpe have won twice and lost twice, but have performed well on each occasion. Brian Edwards, a fan for over 35 years, remembers Alex Calvo Garcia in 1999.

‘Scoring the winner against Leyton Orient at Wembley. 6th minute, and 84 minutes of agony waiting for the final whistle! but it was great, absolutely great’.

Humber Museums Partnership