Footballers, some people would have you believe, are a pretty selfish bunch.
But, as Ethan Ebanks-Landell revealed yesterday, nothing could be further from the truth.
Having recently lost his place in Sheffield United’s starting eleven, the centre-half’s first instinct was to help those players selected ahead of him. Not, consumed by jealousy, undermine them.
“I like to think, even though I’m a half decent footballer, that I’m a better team mate too. If there is a striker I’ve played against, I’ll 100 per cent tell Wrighty or whoever what he likes to do and what he doesn’t. I’ll gladly provide a few tips and bits of information about him. The same with Bash and Jack. They’ve all done the same for me in the past and we like to look after each other as a unit.”
Having recovered from the hip injury he sustained during last month’s meeting with AFC Wimbledon, Ebanks-Landell hopes to feature against Swindon Town this evening after being recalled for the win over Oxford seven days ago. Jake Wright, whose performances alongside Chris Basham and Jack O’Connell persuaded Chris Wilder to bench the 24-year-old in recent weeks, is a doubt after breaking his nose at the Kassam Stadium. But, if he does miss-out, Ebanks-Landell knows there will be no hard feelings.
“You are never happy not to be playing but, at the same time, I understand I’m not going to be playing every week. If the team is doing well and I’m not in there then it’s not going to change is it. If I was in and it was going well, I wouldn’t be happy if the gaffer changed it. It’s the same principle, even when it doesn’t work in your favour. If you drop out, it’s always going to be a long old struggle to get back in. But I always want the team to do well and, the great thing here is, the same goes for all the other lads.”
Wilder praised his squad’s “respect” and “humility” before boarding the coach to Wiltshire yesterday; insisting the League One leaders will remain “grounded” despite establishing an eight point lead over second-placed Fleetwood Town. With 10 matches of the season remaining, United are strong favourites to reach the Championship next season. But, as Ebanks-Landell explained, complacency will not be an issue along the finishing straight.
“We try not to think about anyone else. We just concentrate on our jobs because we can’t affect anything else. That’s all we train for too; the next team coming up. Nothing more beyond that.
“We are still keeping our feet on the ground. The gaffer has told us and we know what we want to do, in the changing room. We’re just taking it game by game and seeing where we end up at the end of the season.
“That attitude comes from the gaffer and the skipper (Billy Sharp) leads it. The gaffer has always put ownership of what happens on the players.”
A demanding and at times demonstrative manager, Wilder’s decision to step back and let the dressing room take charge of its own destiny is proving to be a master-stroke. United enter this evening’s game unbeaten in seven outings and boosted by the return of Harry Chapman and Leon Clarke, Ebanks-Landell’s friend and flat mate, from injury.
“We’ve got some big characters and lots of senior players,” he continued. “There’s good young players too with Harry coming back in. The skipper, Bash and Wright are really good and Leon is too. Even though he’s not been playing he’s been in wishing everybody good luck and telling us he hopes we do well. Even if you aren’t playing, you’re still a part of this team. If we do any team days out, everybody is invited and everybody comes.”
Unlike Ebanks-Landell, who arrived on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers in August, Clarke has been a peripheral figure for much of the campaign after being plagued by ankle problems. Wilder confirmed yesterday the former Sheffield Wednesday and Bury centre-forward resumed full-time training earlier this week after completing a week’s worth of intensive rehabilitation at St George’s Park.
“I’ve not been having to keep his head up,” Ebanks-Landell insisted. “I’ve been making him some good sandwiches. Joking aside, he’s been eating well. We’ve got a good partnership going, I cook and he washes up.”
Swindon, 22nd in the table, were beaten 4-0 at Bramall Lane in December but Ebanks-Landell added: “Swindon are a good club. They try and play football and it’s going to be a tough game. We know we’ve got to be right up for it.”