Scunthorpe Telegraph Sports Editor Bob Steels looks back at a lifetime covering The Iron ...

It's an object of some amusement to my younger colleagues on the sports desk that I have vivid memories of watching England win the World Cup in 1966.

Heck, most of them are barely old enough even to remember Gazza's famous tears in the finals in 1990.

But the one thing about being more mature in years, is having more happy memories.

It was while England were in Mexico in 1970 that I started as a rookie reporter on my home town newspaper, the Scunthorpe Telegraph.

Journalism was a different world in those days. The paper I have spent all my working life on was a broadsheet, not turning tabloid until nearly 20 years later.

Everything was black and white, no hint of colour - and technology was still waiting to take off. How some of the present generation would have coped with the old fashioned type-writers, I dread to think.

There were no such things as laptops in those days, no mobile phones, not even a dictaphone. It was good old-fashioned shorthand that had to get you by.

It was the days of typographers and hot metal, where mistakes were actually chiselled off the page!

There was no local radio, no club websites - and you often had to share a telephone in the Press Box on away games.

My first game reporting on Scunthorpe United was a memorable one at Torquay in November 1976, with a player by the name of Doug O'Connor netting a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory.

"You can come again," said manager Ron Ashman on the coach journey home. In those days the local reporter tended to travel with the team.

The chief football writer I eventually took over from when he retired in 1982 was Tom Taylor, whose son Graham became England manager eight years later.

As a small boy Graham was in charge of the stop-watch in the Press Box at the Old Show Ground as his dad covered the matches.

Tom used to tell a terrific story about a teenage player, by the name of Kevin Keegan, sitting on his knee on those long away journeys acting as the dummy to Tom's ventriloquist.

Football in those days was much more fun. There was not the same pressure on players or the media they worked with.

There can't be many newspapers which have had just two chief football reporters for a total of 63 years. Tom Taylor covered The Iron for 36 years, leaving me as a comparative novice on just 27.

I've enjoyed every minute of it, working with many wonderful people - including the present quartet in my sports department now.

Memories are many. In May 1984 a fire destroyed the Press Box at Brentford's Griffin Park. Doing a 'running story' for the evening sports edition proved literally that - up and down stairs to the telephone. United lost 3-0, but I only saw one goal!

Three years later and binoculars were required to watch a game at Northampton Town from the cricket pavilion on the far side of the old County Ground.

That was because the stand containing the football Press Box had been closed following the introduction of safety standards in the wake of the Bradford City fire.

I have been fortunate enough to go to the top table of English football three times with United in the last 17 years, twice in the Play-Offs and just over a week ago in the final of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy.

Scunthorpe are hoping to make it back to Wembley in a few weeks' time - but first they have to secure their place in the Play-Offs

United might be a small club - but it is a proud one, having produced two talents like Keegan and Ray Clemence.

They were the first club in modern times to move to a new stadium when they left the Old Show Ground in 1988 for Glanford Park - which cost just £2.1m.

But then the words small and Scunthorpe United are synonymous. The club is one of the smallest in The Football League.

But being small does not mean you cannot have success.

Five years ago the club was nearly relegated from The Football League. But they quickly transformed their fortunes with two promotions in three seasons to last year be back in the second tier of English football for the first time since 1964.

Sadly they could not survive at that level - but it has only whetted their appetite to go back.

In Steve Wharton, they have a chairman who tempers ambition with reality. Unlike some of his counterparts, he has no real ego. He has his dreams, but is not prepared to risk bankrupting the club to achieve them.

United are now just about debt-free. Not long ago Crewe Alexandra were seen as the role model for the smaller club. That mantle has now been taken by Scunthorpe.

There is no bigger tribute that could be paid to the club I have reported on for all these years.

Not that I'm ready to put down my pen (or should I say close my lap-top?) just yet. I have now covered over 1,500 Scunthorpe games.

And the most important one? It will always be the next!

Read Bob Steels online at www.sportstelegraph.co.uk

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