x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Adkins: the real Iron man

Nigel Adkins personifies Scunthorpe's nickname as he once again has a chance of toppling Manchester City this season.

The story of Nigel Adkins does not follow the usual trajectory of someone who has made a living from football. He managed an amateur team at 16, studied for a degree alongside his time playing in goal for Tranmere and Wigan, took the League of Wales side Bangor City into European competition then quit to look after his sick wife.

In order to pay the mortgage while caring for his sick wife he joined Scunthorpe United, then in the fourth tier of English football, as a part-time physio. That was 13 years ago. Now, he finds himself manager of the team, two divisions higher. It is these experiences that shape Adkins' beaming personality; he is positive to a fault and is passionate about building a dynasty at Glanford Park rather than his bank balance. His name does not tend to be linked with vacancies at so-called bigger clubs, maybe they know they would struggle to prize him away from a club where he feels at home.

"We're a hard-working, honest, community club who are endeavouring to be the best we can be," he said. He often talks of endeavour. Even after defeats his post-match comments could fool supporters into thinking their team had actually just won. Roberto Mancini will become the second Manchester City manager to face Scunthorpe this season. Under Mark Hughes, City were 5-1 victors at the same stage of the Carling Cup.

Today's match will be different. Supporters will be close to the players and the pitch is tight, not like the wide stadiums City's players are used too. There is even a terrace, a rare sight in English football, behind one of the goals. Adkins seemed genuinely concerned that City's entourage of players and backroom staff would not fit into the away dressing room. Scunthorpe supporters will hope City's players - likely to be without some of their bigger names with one eye on the Carling Cup - struggle to cope with the less luxurious surroundings.

"We've taken some notable scalps at home this season: Derby, Preston, Sheffield United and Newcastle. Our home form is good, we've a good spirit about the players," said Adkins. "There will be a full stadium, we're looking to cause an upset. Do City have one eye on Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final second leg with Manchester United? Will that dictate the team Mancini puts out?" Adkins will invite Mancini for a drink after the match today and talk football. A keen student of the game, the Scunthorpe manager always seems excited.

"He's come from a different culture and it will be nice to pick his brains and get some knowledge from it," he added. "Normally I ask what the game plan was, and where they think our strengths are. I want to learn about the longevity of it, while I'm young and fresh I try to pick up as much information as I can." lthornhill@thenational.ae Scunthorpe v Man City, KO 8pm, Aljazeera Sport +9