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Manchester City's pampered stars are set for a shock at ageing Glanford Park

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23 Jan 2010 00:55:36

Manchester City's pampered stars are set for a shock at ageing Glanford Park

At the last count, Steve Wharton was valued at £33million which means, theoretically, the Scunthorpe United chairman could buy Robinho and still have enough left over to pay Manchester City's Brazilian star for nearly a month. But Wharton, 65, has no interest in hypothetical irrelevances like that. No time for the foreign owners and astronomical figures that have become part and parcel of Premier League clubs, including the one due to arrive tomorrow when City slum it at Glanford Park in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Old school: Scunthorpe don't do pristine on the pitch or gold fittings in the visitors' dressing-room Sheik Mansour won't be there. The Abu Dhabi billionaire hasn't even made it to Manchester yet so he is unlikely to visit Scunthorpe. 'It's not good for English football,' said Wharton. 'I'd get no pleasure at having the best football team because I was the wealthiest person in the world. My pleasure is trying to help a team like Scunthorpe be as successful as they can. If I wasn't involved with them, I wouldn't be involved in football. 'With too many clubs, it's a plaything for someone who gets a thrill out of being involved for a while. It's hard to comprehend because it's like Monopoly money. But what's clever about having more money than somebody else? 'When we played Chelsea five years ago I was asked if I'd want to swap places with Roman Abramovich. He's the last person I'd want to swap places with. I get a kick out of us competing at a pretty high level without losing money.' In the latest Deloitte financial review, Scunthorpe were one of three clubs (Wolves and Birmingham were the others) in the top two divisions operating free of debt, although presumably City have joined that list after the Sheik personally wrote off £305m of debt by transferring it into equity. Iron will: chairman Steve Wharton makes his points Wharton has reduced his loan to Scunthorpe from £1m to £800,000. He is justifiably proud of his achievements at an unfashionable club, drawing on a fan base of barely 5,000 which is 10 per cent of the population of a steel town where stock car racing and speedway compete with the football team. His father would be proud, too. Steve was four when Jack Wharton, the former chairman, gave him £50-worth of club shares and put The Iron, as Scunthorpe are known, in his son's blood. Wharton has made millions from the family shipping and wharf business, as well as his farming interests, but he runs Scunthorpe well within its means. While Robinho takes home £165,000-a-week, Scunthorpe's highest earner is on less than £5,000. 'Our top wage would probably be the bottom wage for most clubs,' said Wharton, who joined the board in 1993, having first become involved with the club 20 years earlier following his father's death. Punching above their weight: The Iron have posters reflecting a no-nonsense philosophy 'There are clubs in League One where one player's wages would pay all ours. But I don't begrudge Robinho one penny. People say it's obscene but the ones to blame are those who pay it. I was on the coach with the players when we played at City in the Carling Cup this season and I was watching the stewards bringing their players' cars down. 'There were two or three Bentleys, one or two Aston Martins. They would hand the keys over to the player who would leave the stadium at about 80 miles an hour. They are used to that, but they will see it's a little bit different here.' Glanford Park may have been the first purpose-built football stadium after the war, but it's showing it's age now. A classic stage for an upset. Only 9,000 will be able to watch tomorrow's game which means gate receipts will be little more than £40,000 after tax, although a first-ever appearance on terrestrial TV will boost that by £144,000. Wharton goes through the figures as he sits in the boardroom. From the window you can almost see his wharf out towards the River Trent. In between, he owns a tract of land where Scunthorpe train, along with a state-of-the-art indoor surface housed inside a farm shed. Scunthorpe are punching above their weight in the Championship. Nevertheless, this is a club that played host to famous names like Kevin Keegan, Ray Clemence and even Ian Botham. Wharton chuckles as he recalls Beefy and Allan Clarke turning out alongside him as ringers in a game between North and South Lincolnshire Farmers. Up for the cup: City's millionaires hoping for a stroll across Glanford Park won't have it easy He was laughing five ayears ago, too, when Scunthorpe went to Chelsea in the third round and took the lead against Jose Mourinho's side through a Paul Hayes' goal before losing 3-1. 'That is my favourite FA Cup memory,' said Wharton. 'Our fans started chanting "Are you Grimsby in disguise?".' The proceeds from that helped buy Andy Keogh. He was later sold, as were other strikers like Billy Sharp and Martin Paterson. Pictures of Keogh and Sharp line the corridor from the dressing-room to the tunnel. Below each photo is the price they were bought for and the increased figure at which they were sold. It shows the squad and potential signings that Scunthorpe can be a springboard to success, although a £500,000 profit on Keogh is unlikely to impress Roberto Mancini and his millionaire stars. Nowadays, it is up to youngsters like striker Gary Hooper to earn their move to a bigger club. Hooper will pose the most serious threat to City alongside Hayes, who will be one of only two men in the line-up who played at Chelsea. Brian Laws was in charge then. Now it is Nigel Adkins, who has emerged as one of the brightest young managers in the game since stepping up from his role as physio when Laws left for Sheffield Wednesday three years ago. 'It wasn't as big a gamble as people seemed to think,' said Wharton. Upbeat: physio-turned-boss Nigel Adkins is hoping for 'a proper cup tie' 'He was the obvious choice to try and keep going what we had here. Sometimes the unexpected can have the best results, and I quite relish the fact everyone thought it was a stupid decision.' Adkins has masterminded promotion to the Championship twice in three years, and took Scunthorpe to Wembley twice last season in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and League One Play-off final. The former Tranmere and Wigan keeper decided to become a physio as he lay in hospital 20 years ago, recovering from a double fracture of the spine and wondering if he'd ever walk again. An infectiously positive character, Adkins realised the treatment room was the ideal place to tap into a footballer's psyche. It is a skill he has put to good use as a manager. He said: 'They might have come in for treatment for an injury but a lot of the time it's psychological things, like a problem with the wife or fans are having a go at them, drinks, drugs, gambling, all sorts of different things that can happen in football as well as society. 'Management is a full-time job because everyone's problem is your problem, but I'm used to that, being a physio. You have to manage people and sit down with them. Can we extract every ounce of potential you've got? Be the best you can be, that's what I keep saying.' Adkins, 44, had always been a manager in the making. From running a team in the Birkenhead Sunday League to his time as player-manager of Bangor City, when he used to pick up his players in a mini bus from the work sites around Liverpool with a flask of coffee and a box of sandwiches, and then stop off at a Little Chef on the way to Wales so they could have a wash. He won two League of Wales titles and took Bangor into Europe, but beating a City side who thumped Scunthorpe 5-1 at home in the Carling Cup less than three months ago would surpass that. 'We were disappointed because we didn't do ourselves justice that night,' said Adkins. 'I think some of the lads were more concerned with whose shirt they were going to get after the game. We're at home now and hopefully we can make it a proper cup tie. 'On paper, Man City should beat Scunthorpe every time. If we keep the score below five then we've improved, it's a simple as that. 'But at the end of the day, we're the banana skin for them.'  Manchester City's £2m bid for Victor Moses snubbed by Crystal PalaceUnited boss Sir Alex doesn't care for Neville's row with tormentor Tevez Police plead with City and United fans to behave in next Manchester derby


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