Sheffield United: Scott Hogan believes he is among like-minded people after moving to Bramall Lane
Late on Tuesday evening, as he was preparing to drive across the Peak District to his native Manchester, Scott Hogan noticed something which reminded him of his not-so-distant past.
"I came up to sign and, when I was heading back through again, there it was," he says, describing the moment. "I turned to my agent and told him 'God, I remember this, I used to play down there.' It was the turn-off for Stocksbridge and it brought the memories flooding back."
Hogan is relaxing on a sofa inside the Steelphalt Academy's common room as, less than 24 hours after leaving Aston Villa on loan, he traces his journey to Sheffield United. It is a route which started in Rochdale before returning to Spotland via places like Halifax, Ashton, Hyde and also Bracken Moor. A stop-off at Brentford followed before, 21 goals and 36 appearances later, he moved on to the Midlands.
Although Hogan's time there has proved frustrating, with opportunities limited despite a £9m price tag, the Republic of Ireland international is convinced being back among like-minded people can help him rediscover his best form. Manager Chris Wilder, together with huge swathes of United's first team squad, are also veterans of non-league.
"The gaffer has sort of done that as well," Hogan acknowledges. "That was maybe behind his thinking in that he knows what he is going to get from lads like myself.
"I suppose, coming through that way, you're even more determined that you're going to enjoy it or you have something to prove to people.
"It works either way, whatever motivation takes you, you have just got to use it. It might be by luck or chance, but there is a similar group of lads here and it's clearly working well."
Hogan, aged 26, joins a side third in the Championship table ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with Bolton Wanderers. With Gary Madine and Kieran Dowell also arriving before Thursday's transfer deadline, Wilder believes United are now equipped, in terms of character, calibre and depth, to sustain a challenge for the Premier League.
"There's no egos or anything like that here," Hogan continues. "The fact they run the extra yard for each other is something you notice when you are playing against the lads.
"I've watched teams with big egos and I don't like seeing it. But here, you see the lads will go that bit extra for each other and it pays dividends in the end, they'll end up running you into the ground or score four or five past you.
"I know they did it to Villa earlier this season and they absolutely destroyed them. There is nothing like that in this dressing room which is the best thing about it."
Despite citing September's 4-1 victory over his parent club as evidence of their potential it was eight months earlier, following Villa's narrow win at Bramall Lane, when Hogan first became a fan of United's attack-minded football.
"I have been away on international duty and a lot of the lads sit down and talk to those from Sheffield United," he says, referring to Enda Stevens and John Egan. "They are saying: 'I hate playing you, we have got you next week.'
"I think it is just the way they play, with the enthusiasm, energy and hard work. Some lads do not want to do what the lads do here.
"I played here last year at Villa and we sneaked a 1-0 but got absolutely battered. I don't think we saw the ball all game apart from a bit of magic at the end."
Hogan's presence, which bolsters a frontline including David McGoldrick and leading goalscorer Billy Sharp, is designed to ensure those type of results are a thing of the past as United attempt to overhaul second-placed Norwich City and leaders Leeds.
Although Hogan concedes his performances for Villa have left much to be desired, he suspects Wilder's system, with its over-lapping centre-halves and rampaging wing-backs, will help rejuvenate his career.
"There's a few things that went wrong, but I will take full responsibility for everything," he says. "Ultimately, I was paid to do something and I did not do it. That's the be-all and end-all. I have to shoulder the responsibility, which I am fine with, but I'm looking forward now. "There's lads all over the world happy to sit on the bench and happy to collect whatever they get at the end of the week. I can't do that." "I have got a lot of people to prove wrong," Hogan adds. "But I am not too fussed about other people. I have got to prove it to myself.
"I know I have got it in me because you do not become a bad player overnight.
“I have got to get back to the player who was the subject of interest from the Premier League, even teams abroad, when I went to Villa. I know I've got it in me."