First things first, before he talks about tonight’s game with Cardiff City, controversial defeats at Middlesbrough or even the importance of establishing a foothold in the Championship, Samir Carruthers wants to get something off his chest.
Having spent the summer listening to whispers he is unsettled in South Yorkshire, the Sheffield United midfielder thinks it’s important to set the record straight.
“Do you know what, I honestly don’t know where that came from,” he says. “I suppose people just like to talk. One rumour probably started and then everyone must have jumped on it. But, believe me, I’m staying here. I’ve loved every minute so far and, to be honest, I can’t ever see that changing.”
Carruthers is standing in a corridor at Bramall Lane, waiting to board the team coach to Wales, as he discusses football, his cosmopolitan family and pretty much everything else in between. The conversation is easy, the jokes flow freely but, when asked about those fantastical stories on social media, Carruthers, sighs, smiles and then explains why nothing could be further from the truth.
“Do you know what, when I first came to the club I was nervous because I didn’t know any of the lads,” he continues. “But after a week or so, the lads were so welcoming and I just settled in straight away. I’ve loved every single minute to be honest. I’ve really taken to the way of life. I’ve love being here, I love coming into training and our team is really a good knit. There aren’t any cliques whatsoever and I think that shows out there on the pitch.”
Carruthers confirmed his commitment by moving to the city after leaving MK Dons midway through last term. The former Republic of Ireland under-21 international, who despite hailing from London is also qualified to represent Italy and Morocco, was injured on his debut for Chris Wilder’s side. But, following their League One title triumph, is hoping to make his third consecutive Championship start when United visit the Welsh capital this evening.
“I moved up here straight away because that’s the way forward. I have to be close to the club, that’s what works best for me. Sheffield is great, I really like the place. But day to day as a footballer isn’t that interesting really. There are times when we enjoy ourselves of course but, basically, it’s just train and relax, train and relax.”
City, managed by Wilder’s predecessor Neil Warnock, sit on top of the table after winning both of their opening two games. Last weekend’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa - regarded by many as shoe-ins for promotion - sent shockwaves rippling through the division. United, who marked their return to the second tier by edging past Brentford, were beaten in disputatious circumstances by Middlesbrough three days ago. Wilder admitted the decision to rule-out a late goal from Jack O’Connell, which would have secured his team a share of the spoils, still rankled when he faced the media yesterday.
“It hurt,” Carruthers, reflecting on his first defeat in a United jersey, admits. “But it’s happened now. There’s no point hanging around on it. It’s not going to affect this game or help us get any points so we’ve got to draw a line and move on.”
The meeting with City, who overwhelmed Villa thanks to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s brace and an expertly-worked goal from Junior Hoilett, promises to test United’s technical skills and physical strength. But, having grown unaccustomed to defeat, it could prove a psychological challenge too.
Carruthers, however, is quick to dismiss suggestions their confidence could suffer.
“We don’t just sit back and accept defeat. We’ve not got that outlook here. It comes from our winning mentality, that we had the whole of last year. I can talk for the rest of the lads, we have a lot of belief in ourselves. We just want to go on another good run again and that’s what we’ll be trying to do.”
United’s will to win also extends to their training sessions as Wilder, revealing Ched Evans is against set to feature at the City of Cardiff Stadium, explained during his pre-match media briefing.
“Even during games of head tennis, these lads want to win,” the 49-year-old admitted. “That’s why Jack (O’Connell) looks like he’s done 10 rounds because Samir accidentally caught him with a boot.”
Carruthers, aged 24, was used primarily as a substitute after recovering from the knee injury which curtailed his progress after joining United. Arguably United’s most impressive performer during pre-season, he explains why Wilder was right to suggest spending the entire summer in South Yorkshire would benefit his fitness and, consequently, his form.
“I was unfortunate to get the injury. It’s difficult to get totally match fit in the season. But I got a fair few games and showed touches of what I can do. I’ve had the summer now and I feel really good, really up to speed. Hopefully I stay injury free and stay in the team. I just want to do well for us.”
Carruthers caught the eye against Middlesbrough before being replaced by Mark Duffy, whose own preparations for the new campaign were interrupted when his partner gave birth.
“Personally, I’m trying to do well and stay in the team,” Carruthers adds. “There’s a lot of competition here. Even the lads who haven’t been playing yet, they’ve all got the same winning mentality as the boys who have. That’s why you know they can step right in and bring something.”