Footballers talking into a notebook or microphone about “fantastic team spirit” is one thing. The same in private conversation is another. That’s when you know.
Publicly, there isn’t a player in the country who would say any different. Even, for instance, at Leicester City, Sheffield United’s FA Cup fifth round opponents, for all the upset caused by Riyad Mahrez’s long strop after being denied a move to Manchester City.
You can’t say that sort of thing couldn’t happen at Bramall Lane; not if the ultimate ambition is met. But if it did, it would be pretty short lived. Under this regime certainly – and with this sort of player in the dressing room; who would all tell you the same thing on and off the record.
Maybe spirit should be a given and no different to expecting 100 per cent effort. In reality, it isn’t. So Chris Wilder has genuinely created something pretty special.
It’s as greatly prized as any signing – and, indeed, the Blades’ four arrivals of the January window were tailored to their character keeping the togetherness intact.
Despite only two wins in 13 and heading into some more winnable looking matches - albeit that Leeds this weekend have a new boss in Paul Heckingbottom - the group camaraderie remains intact and will be vital.
Wilder would love a Mahrez as a player. Who wouldn’t? But not at the cost of rocking the stability of the group. You can’t say that’s happened at Leicester because the overall impression is of a fairly tight group housing a couple of particularly committed individuals well-known in these parts - the Sheffield-born duo of Jamie Vardy and ex-Blade Harry Maguire.
Equally, you can’t compare a Premier League outfit with a low-budget team punching well above its weight in the Championship. You’d expect a more earthy environment at one than the other.
However, there is no way Wilder would countenance one player topping a club’s agenda in the way Mahrez has done.
Would he have recommended selling him? I think maybe he would.
There might be a price to pay for Leicester holding firm, but there really shouldn’t be. Not if he’s professional enough to respect a contract he was only too happy to sign.
Neither can you compare the Mahrez affair with the January scenario of United’s David Brooks, for whom approaches have been confirmed.
But it’s worth noting how these were not played out in the media and how the player, albeit sidelined for the month, was content to stay out of it.
He will have known better than to do otherwise, much as he is happy to continue his development anyway.
There is an expectation that United players have a responsibility to each other and the group. But there’s room for individual talent and Brooks can prove a catalyst for the whole.
Credit to the hierarchy for keeping Brooks - though the boardroom seems to be facing its own teamwork challenge.
With investment sought, how will various tilts in the Kevin McCabe-Prince Abdullah ownership axis resolve themselves?
Could one even attempt to buy out the other? Or can they fuse together still?
Any uncertainty is not healthy and it would be good to see clarification of a united front off the field as well as on it.