Danny Hall's Sheffield United column: Stefan Scougall shows the importance of a sense of perspective
He's a little player with a big, big heart who knows he could just as easily be digging holes or stacking shelves rather than playing professional football.
So when Stefan Scougall was asked this week about life at Sheffield United under Nigel Adkins, it’s little surprise that the response was an emotional one.
“Bulls*it,” was the takeaway line from the interview, published in our sister ‘paper The Edinburgh Evening News, as the young Scot discussed his exile during the Adkins era and why Chris Wilder’s appointment in the summer has “done him the world of good”.
It’s difficult to argue. Scougall was one of the biggest casualties of the Adkins reign, starting only seven times before being sent on loan to Fleetwood and told he had no future in South Yorkshire. Days later, Adkins was sacked, Wilder replaced him and Scougall hasn’t looked back; he was preferred to Caolan Lavery for Saturday’s difficult clash against MK Dons, and scored his third goal of the season before creating another for Billy Sharp in a 2-1 victory.
“Fortunately for me, the new manager came in,” the 23-year-old said.
“He liked how I’d performed before Nigel Adkins came in and wanted to give me an opportunity. I still had another year on my contract and he said he wanted to keep me and give me another chance.
“It was music to my ears. I think I’ve done pretty well so far.”
Scougall has extra motivation to continue, too. His contract at Bramall Lane expires at the end of this campaign - “Hopefully I’ll get a new one,” he says - and he knows all too well the feeling of the scrapheap, having been released by Hibs as a kid for being too small.
Scougall took a job at Sainsbury’s and applied to join his father, working on Edinburgh’s roads, before an invitation to turn professional with Livingston saved him.
All this after his big brother Alex, four years his senior and who he worshipped as a youngster, tragically died in a car accident aged just 18. Scougall may appear small in stature, but he’s made of stern stuff.
“Last season under Nigel Adkins I was out of favour for different reasons he was giving me,” he added.
“In football, people have different opinions but, for me, it was a lot of bulls**t.
“I was wondering what was going on. First the manager said he couldn’t wait to get me back to Bramall Lane, then he’s extending my loan. When that happened I had a feeling he just didn’t want me.
“We had a meeting when I got back at the end of the season. He told me: ‘You’re a great player but I need to cut the numbers down.’ All that bulls*t.”
Six months on, he’s an integral part of a squad 11 unbeaten in the league, and looking a good bet to finally end their exile in League One.
Will he get that new deal in May? “You never know what will happen,” he says. Scougall is one of football’s good blokes and whatever happens next in his career, you can bet there’ll be no bulls**t.