After bringing in a number of high-profile players during the summer, Scunthorpe United were one of the pre-season favourites for promotion to the Championship.
Following a slow start, the club has really hit form in October, winning four of their last five matches, and they have been helped by their forward Paddy Madden, who is League One’s leading marksman with nine goals so far this term.
Despite playing in a new position, it hasn’t stopped the 25-year-old attacker finding the net, and he looks set for another prolific year in England’s third-tier.
Shoot caught up exclusively with the Irishman to talk goals, the aims for Scunthorpe this season, and how he made a name for himself at Yeovil Town.
How would you sum up Scunthorpe’s season to date?
“We got off to a bit of a bad start. I think every team will have a bad spell during the season and we just hit ours early on. We’re starting to play the way we know we can now, getting a lot of confidence and racking up the points. Hopefully we can finish October off in style against Barnsley on Saturday.”
You’ve won four of the last five to push you up the table after losing five matches in September. What do you think the change in fortune has been down to?
“We had a lot of new signings in the summer and we’re not going to gel straight away and it takes time for that to happen. We always knew the players we brought in over the summer are very good, we’re gelling now and starting to show people what we can do.”
You scored the winner in the game against Fleetwood at the start of October to begin the fine run of form. How important do you think that goal could prove to be?
“It was a big goal. There wasn’t much in the game but that’s the beauty of football; you just have to take your chances when they come. It gave the boys a lot of confidence with the clean sheet as well and got the balling rolling for the run we’re on at the minute.”
You’re the league’s top scorer at the current time. Have you found that you’ve been more closely watched by defenders?
“Not really. I’m playing in a new position now wide right and in the formation we play here with one upfront, I prefer to play on the left or right. I feel I get a good bit of space out there and it’s a different position to what I’m used to with a lot of defensive duties as well. But I’ve gelled into it and I must be doing something right if I’m the leading scorer!”
The club brought in a number of experienced players in the summer. Is the aim for the season to get promotion?
“Yeah, that’s everyone’s aim. The chairman wants that, the players want that and we know our squad is good enough to get promoted. We know we need to keep this good form up and we’re buzzing at the moment though so hopefully we keep racking up the points. Our aim at the start of the season was to get into the top six and we are four points off currently, so if we don’t get in there at the end of the season we will all be disappointed.”
What is the manager Mark Robins like to work with?
“He’s very good. Obviously he’s a former Premier League striker which is good for me because he likes to play attacking football. We have Ned Kelly as well who is a former Republic of Ireland striker and I’ve found them great to work with. They take your point of view on board which some managers don’t like to do and as a result the gaffer and all of the players have a great relationship. Everyone respects him and I’m loving playing here.”
You’ve got Barnsley this weekend. They are in the relegation zone at the moment. Are you surprised by their position?
“Yeah I am. We played them twice at the start of the season and we thought they were a very good side. They started off reasonably well but they are obviously hitting their bad spell now and I think if we beat them on Saturday that will be six straight league defeats. We need to make sure they stay in that bad spell for another match and beat them on Saturday.”
Going back in your career and you made your name for goalscoring at Yeovil. What was your time like there?
“It was brilliant. I got injured quite a lot at Carlisle so my playing time was restricted and I thought the best thing for me to do was to go out on loan and get some games. You have to thank Greg Abbott for allowing me to go to another League One club at the time because most managers would probably send you to a lower league. I always knew I could play at that level but I just needed a run of games which I got with Gary Johnson. I hit the ground running with two goals on my debut and won the League One Golden Boot despite missing the first 10 or 11 matches. It was probably the best year of my career and we finished it off by getting promoted and I scored at Wembley. It was a year I’ll never forget.”
You’re leading the goalscoring charts at the moment. Are you eyeing up that League One Golden Boot again?
“It’s an extra bonus if you do get it but obviously I’m not playing right upfront at the moment and it’s going to be tougher to score as many goals from the right-hand side like I did at Yeovil but I’ll give it my best shot! It’s no big deal if I don’t get it though. The main aim for us is promotion though and if we get that I’ll be over the moon.”
You scored 11 goals in eight consecutive games at one stage for Yeovil. How does it feel as a striker to be in that sort of form?
“It’s unbelievable. You just feel like everything you touch is going to be a goal and I can still remember that form I was in. I got three braces in a row which got me going and you just don’t fear anybody. You believe that you are 100% going to score and it’s a spell that I’ll never forget. It’s the one that got me my name.”
Yeovil are now towards the bottom of League Two. What do you make of their situation at the moment?
“I don’t want to disrespect anyone but I think that when they got into the Championship, maybe if they had brought in a few more Championship players who knew that level I don’t think they would be in the position they find themselves in now. It’s a great club down there with great fans who will always get behind you. Fingers crossed they can get out of that mess because it is a club that doesn’t deserve to be in League Two. My friend, Kevin Dawson, is back from injury so that will give them a boost.”
You moved from the Championship to League Two with Scunthorpe in 2014. What was the thinking behind that?
“I had a falling out with the manager at Yeovil and people said I couldn’t play at that level which I don’t think is true. If I had a full season, or even half a season, and I wasn’t producing the goods, I would accept it and think that maybe I had to develop more in League One. But I only played about five games in the Championship and in most of those I was taken off at half-time. I never really got the run of games that I think I deserved but I’m confident that when I get the opportunity again, I will score goals in that league. Scunthorpe came in and offered me a good deal and they are an ambitious club. The chairman told me all of his ideas, such as the plans for a new stadium, and I wanted to go and be a part of that.”
You got your first Scunthorpe goal in a 5-1 win against Portsmouth in February 2014. How good did it feel to get off the mark, especially after going nine months without a goal?
“I think I only played about five games in around five months with Yeovil and I wasn’t travelling with the squad a lot of the time. Things take time to gel when you go to a new club and it took me time to work out how the other lads like to play and their movements. It was good when it came though, and we went on an unbelievable unbeaten run after that under Russ Wilcox, we got promoted and we were back in League One.”
Internationally, you have one cap for the Republic of Ireland. What was that moment like for you?
“One of the proudest moments to date in my career. To get a cap for your country is an unbelievable feeling. I love my country and to wear the jersey was a great moment for me and my family. It’s something that I want to do again. I made an impression under Giovanni Trapattoni and I was supposed to be in the next squad for the qualifiers against Sweden and Austria, but I ended up getting injured. I’m trying to recreate the form in League One that got me noticed first time around.”
What are your future aspirations?
“Promotion with Scunthorpe and to get some more international caps.”
Best friend in football? Kevin Dawson at Yeovil.
Your footballing idol? Andy Cole.
Hobby outside of football? Golf.
Best player you have ever faced? Wayne Rooney.
Favourite film? Scarface.