Sheffield United: Enda Stevens hopes being humble and honest swings the race for promotion in The Blades’ favour
The stock answer would have been to describe it as a sign they are destined for promotion but, after being asked to assess the merits of his team's draw at Birmingham City, Enda Stevens admitted to having no idea whatsoever how Sheffield United's season will unfold.
"I can't predict the future but that doesn't matter because we only look at ourselves," he said. "All we've got to do is try and win games of football because, if we're able to do that and keep things ticking over, then who knows where it will take us."
With five games remaining and only a point separating them from second-placed Leeds, Stevens could be forgiven for refusing to offer any cast-iron guarantees about where Chris Wilder's side will be playing their football next season.
But rather than being a sign of weakness, or indication that self-doubt is beginning to permeate the home dressing room at Bramall Lane, his reluctance to make grand, sweeping statements about United's chances of reaching the top-flight will have encouraged their manager ahead of Saturday's game against Millwall. Wilder, whose squad enter the match knowing a draw would be enough to see them climb above Marcelo Bielsa's side for a couple of hours at least, has spent the past few weeks stressing the importance of remaining circumspect and modest along the finishing straight. While others indulge in making "noise and nonsense", the 51-year-old wants his squad to focus their energy on delivering results instead.
Speaking after his first goal of the campaign had fired United in front last night, before City's Michael Morrison equalised on the stroke of half-time, Stevens did deviate briefly from those guidelines by admitting the top flight is a "possibility." But it proved to be only a momentary lapse as he quickly turned his attentions towards this weekend's meeting with Neil Harris' side.
"We've tested ourselves since the first game of the season," Stevens continued. "We've always tested ourselves. Hopefully that will stand us in good stead over the course of the next five games.
"The only thing we're concentrating on is the one coming up. We know it's going to be tough and we'll prepare properly."
Wilder, whose players have lost only once in 13 outings, revealed he felt the need to give them a lift following events in the Midlands two days ago.
"I came in and there was a sense of disappointment," he explained. "So I told them it was all about an accumulation of points and that the one they'd just got, against a good side by the way, was part of that process."
With Millwall fighting for survival at the opposite end of the Championship, facing opponents who stubbornly refused to be lured out of position whenever United had the ball could prove the perfect warm-up for what threatens to be another test of patience.
And, as Wilder reminded, four points represents a more than satisfactory return from fixtures against play-off chasing Preston North End and a City outfit who, until they were punished for breaching the competition's financial regulations, would have been chasing a top six finish themselves. Leeds, beaten by Garry Monk's men last weekend, claimed only three after winning at Deepdale on Tuesday night.
"We left it all out there on the pitch," Stevens said. "He could see than and the fans could see that. He was just encouraging and we move on now.
"Listen, he's the manager. If he feels we need a grilling or a kick up the backside, then he'll give us one. But he also gets behind us and doesn't get carried away. We've just got to keep that level of performance up."
Wilder, Stevens confirmed, is not the team's only source of motivation.
"Billy gives the talk in there," he said, providing an insight into the huddle United arrange before games. "He's the captain who wants to motivate us. He wants us to play well, to be on the front foot and to show what we're all about."
With the margins for error becoming increasingly slim - despite averaging 1.7 goals per game across the campaign, United and Leeds have scored only two apiece this month - the ability of Stevens and others to support their centre-forwards could decide the final table."The boys have been on me and I've had a few chances over the course of the season," he said. "I should have had a few more goals. The manager's been on me, everyone's been on me. "You can't not be on me with the positions I get in. It's just confidence really I suppose. That and putting the ball in the back of the net."