“A proper football club.”
Four words Michael Doyle believes perfectly describe Sheffield United ahead of its 125th birthday this weekend.
“That’s the best way I can sum it up,” he said. “And that’s exactly what it is.
“Right the way from the ground up, there’s an aura about this place. A special one too.”
Doyle, the United captain, is expected to make his 164th appearance against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday since arriving from Coventry City four seasons ago.
The former Republic of Ireland midfielder, whose combative performances have helped catapult Nigel Clough’s side into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, has also represented the likes of Leeds and Celtic during a 16-year career.
But, speaking at the Redtooth Academy earlier this week, it quickly became apparent that he views United as a unique case.
“The first thing I realised after walking through the doors here is just how proud people are about Sheffield United,” Doyle continued. “That really struck me. It really got hammered home.
“And what makes that feeling even stronger is that it’s like that all the way through. No matter whether someone is a fan, a player or member of the management, coaching and administration staff, it’s exactly the same. You can tell Sheffield United is in their heart and means the world to them. That’s the sort of feeling which quickly rubs off on you.”
“I can give you a great example of that,” Doyle added. “I spend a lot of time in the hotel at Bramall Lane and the chairman (Kevin McCabe) is always in there with his family and chatting with supporters.
“A lot of us went in there after beating Charlton Athletic (in the FA Cup) and he was in there again, mingling and having a drink with everyone else.
“I thought to myself ‘Do you know what? You just don’t see that anywhere else’. I’ve played for a few clubs and I’ve enjoyed being there but it’s the little things like that, which happen on a regular basis mind, which makes this one so different. And it’s things like that you really appreciate.”
United have planned a series of events to mark their start of the anniversary celebrations with at least 50 former players scheduled to parade across the pitch before kick-off and video messages from those unable to attend being relayed to the crowd.
Doyle, who barring illness or injury is expected to enjoy a prominent role in the game itself, acknowledged it should prove a “memorable occasion” for supporters.
For his colleagues, it will also provide historical context and a sense of place. “It’s special,” Doyle, aged 32, said. “When we’ll see all of the players who have been here before down the years, it will really put this club into perspective.
“We’ve got to focus on the match and trying to do the business but there’s no doubt things like that make you realise just how fortunate you are to be here.
“I always remember when I used to come here as a member of the opposition. You knew you were coming to a great, traditional stadium.
“You just felt that the moment you walked into the place.
“You could feel the buzz and then, when you were waiting in the tunnel to come out and you saw Morgs (Chris Morgan) across on the other side, you thought ‘Well, here we go’. You knew you were going to be in for a battle and, hopefully, that’s the type of atmosphere we’re bringing back again. It’s a great thing to be a part of, it really is.”