SOMETIMES, appearances can be a little deceptive.
Speak to new Sheffield United signing Ethan Ebanks-Landell and it is easy, on the face of it, to view the 23-year-old as a quietly-spoken and reserved young man still making his way in the game, relatively-speaking.
A follower rather than someone to follow, in the nicest possible sense.
But when it comes to giving his verdict on one of his core strengths, the emphatic utterance of the word ‘leader’ is particularly striking and marks a break from that understated persona.
Yet if you delve beneath the surface and do a bit of research, perhaps it is not too surprising that Ebanks-Landell, who made his move to Bramall Lane from Wolverhampton Wanderers on a season-long loan on Wednesday, chose that particular noun.
The Smethwick-born centre-half has already been through plenty in his career.
Coping with a couple of bad injuries has helped mentally toughen him up, as has representing a footballing institution in shape of Wolves, a big deal in the goldfish bowl environment of West Midlands football where the column inches are considerable and the radio phone-ins lengthy.
A loan spell early in his professional career in the muck-and-nettles of League One football at Bury – at the wrong end of the table at that – also quickly helped him forge an identity on the pitch.
Moreso under the guise of someone who is exactly not backwards in coming forwards in terms of dishing out advice in the shape of ex-Blades boss Kevin Blackwell, Ebanks-Landell’s manager at Gigg Lane.
The tutelage of a couple of gnarled defenders at Wolves in the shape of Jody Craddock and Richard Stearman, in particular, also aided in Ebanks-Landell’s development.
In terms of a grounding, it is all more than useful for his new task with the Blades, having swapped one big club desperate to propel themselves back to where they believe that they belong for another.
Ebanks-Landell, hoping to be involved in tomorrow afternoon’s televised game against Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium, said: “As a player, you want to be playing for as big a club as possible with as many followers as you can and especially in this league, Sheffield United is the biggest club.
“Wolves is a massive club, but Sheffield United are too and are a club where you can grow as a player.
“I like to think I will bring a bit of leadership and am decent on the ball and just a solid defender. Defending is my main job, although I get a goal every now and again.
“Although I do not like getting up the pitch, because it means I have to get back!”
On the whole aspect of leadership, the 6ft 2in stopper commented: “I would not say you consciously develop it.
“But as you get older and a little bit wiser and play a few more games, then it comes. When I was younger, I probably was not as big a leader as I should have been.
“But I have had good centre halves play in front of me such as Stears and Jody Craddock and I have watched them and listened to the stuff they have said.
“They have definitely been big influences, especially Stears because I have been around him a lot since coming up and he is the one who smashed me first in my first training session.
“The boys were saying: ‘What are you doing?’ But I loved it. It showed what man’s football is all about.
“Being at Bury also toughened me up. We had a tough manager in Kevin Blackwell as well and he toughened me up a lot. When I had a ‘beast’ of a game, he let me know!
“He was definitely good for me. We were relegated, but that happens in football, but that also toughens you up and makes you really know what football is about.”
After a difficult 2016, Ebanks-Landell is the first to admit his move to the Steel City is timely.
His 2015-16 campaign ended prematurely when he suffered a foot injury in Wolves’ televised loss at Middlesbrough on March 8 – and he then coped a further blow when Kenny Jackett –someone who championed his cause during his days in the Black Country – left Molineux at the end of July.
With new manager Walter Zenga keen on putting his own stamp on the Wolves squad, Ebanks-Landell suddenly found himself on the periphery, with a tough time compounded by his dismissal on Tuesday in his sole first-team outing for the Midlanders this season – in the EFL Trophy game at Chesterfield.
Thankfully, the first piece of good footballing fortune that Ebanks-Landell has experienced in a good while arrived the following day when the Blades got in touch with Wolves to seal his move to S2.
Small wonder he seized upon the chance offered to him.
Admitting to being refreshed upon leaving Wolves, Ebanks-Landell, who joined the club at the age of eight, added: “Definitely. I was injured and I started behind (in pre season) anyway, so it was a bit of a struggle.
“I just thought that I would not take that risk of just sitting around and watching others play games. Sheffield United is a good opportunity for me.
“Right now, I am at Sheffield United and we will see where we go from there.
“If the gaffer wants me at Wolves, then I am still under contract there.
“But I am happy at Sheffield United at the moment and I could not have asked for much more.”
Reflecting on a topsy-turvy week, which saw him transferred just a day after being sent off for his parent club, he commented: “My head was well and completely gone and I was thinking I was going to be scrambling around on deadline day.
“But luckily, I woke up in the morning and was told that the move was on and I was buzzing.”