Sheffield United: Chris Wilder seems content with life as he prepares Blades for Bristol City return
The sun swept over their Shirecliffe training base and, as he discussed Sheffield United's trip to Ashton Gate this weekend, Chris Wilder gave off the appearance of a man content with his lot in life.
As well he should. His Blades sit third in the Championship after the international break, and his sextet of international stars all returned from duty with their countries without any ill-effects. Over a management career that has encompassed spells at Alfreton, Halifax Town, Oxford, Northampton and United, it isn't a headache he's been too accustomed to. But one he is happy to be rid of all the same.
Now, all focuses switches to Ashton Gate on Saturday. The last time Wilder and Co. boarded the bus for Bristol, his future was in the air - as was, without too much exaggeration, the direction of the football club itself.
Around that time, as he spoke openly and emotionally about the battle for control of the Bramall Lane boardroom between the Blades' two co-owners and how he had failed to receive direction and clarity about when and how they would attempt to take the next step, press briefings were sometimes terse and fraught affairs.Â
Wilder is not a man who can control his emotions easily, especially when it comes to United. So when he faced the media at today's press conference, the sun on his back and what looked like a fresh pair of adidas Stan Smiths on his feet, his smile - surrounded by a flicker of paper-white stubble - spoke volumes.
The Blades boss is a happy man, but the grin did turn a little when he remembered that period at the end of last season, which culminated in a breathtaking display of football from United and a heartwarming show of affection towards Wilder from the travelling Blades fans.
It was also understandable to hear him compare his squad on that day to the one that will board the coach with him for the long trip south, and how he feels United are much stronger now than they have ever been during his time here.
United, as a team and as a club, are getting stronger by the game and his pride at the Sheffield Six on international duty was evident.Â
Then he was off, with a word and a firm handshake. Time to train; the Stan Smiths off, boots - likely old-school adidas Copas or World Cup specials - on. Down to business.