Rhian Brewster's joy in others' success explains why it smells like team spirit at Sheffield United

When Oli McBurnie scored his first Sheffield United goal for 20 months, Rhian Brewster was watching from the bench. His chances of getting into the first XI had just got that little bit slimmer.

"Some people think because you're rivals you're going to be down but I was absolutely buzzing for him because I'd seen how much hard work he'd put into getting back from injury and in training," says the Liverpool academy product. "I wanted to be the first one on that pitch (to congratulate him)."

Brewster has been discussing the team spirit which has carried United to the top of the Championship. With an international break after the game, victory at Preston North End on Saturday will see them hold pole position into October.

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With McBurnie having broken his duck, Brewster is the next to tick off, having not found the net since scoring his first three league goals for the club either side of Christmas, only to pick up a season-ending injury.

CELEBRATION: Rhian Brewster enjoys an lliman Ndiaye goalCELEBRATION: Rhian Brewster enjoys an lliman Ndiaye goal
CELEBRATION: Rhian Brewster enjoys an lliman Ndiaye goal

"I know when I score my first goal (of the season) it's going to be exactly the same, he's going to be buzzing for me," says the 22-year-old.

"In other teams a striker might score and the other strikers might think, 'I didn't want him to play well.' In our side that's not the case.

"When Reda (Khadra) scored the other day you saw Iliman Ndiaye down there (celebrating having been substituted for him). Oli Mac was a bit tired so he wasn't down there but he jumped up. Jebbo (Daniel Jebbison) was there, everyone. I'm only naming strikers because of what we're talking about but I think it shows how close our group is."

Team spirit like that does not happen by chance.

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New managers rarely inherit teams high on it, and assistant Stuart McCall says it was the same for Paul Heckingbottom in November.

"It wasn't just what had happened in that season," he says. "They had 12 months of difficulties, really – loss of form, loss of confidence and getting beaten week in, week out.

"You'd got a group of players who had been used to winning and had been successful together, then for 18 months they'd had a lot of pain, as had the supporters. You lose a bit of confidence and a bit of team spirit and the key when we first came in was to try and lift them up."

One idea Heckingbottom introduced was making his players give a presentation to the rest about something they do away from football.

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"I haven't done mine yet," reveals Brewster. "Ozzy (Ben Osborn) likes to sing and has a little band. Boges (Jayden Bogle) loves his PlayStation.

"I'm going to try and make mine as funny as possible."

A core of players who came up through the leagues together has the potential to be cliquey, but Brewster found the opposite when he joined two summers ago. Now it is his job to show the same openness to others, such as his England Under-21 team-mates Tommy Doyle and James McAtee.

"I knew Oli Mac before I came,” he says. “I didn't know Didzy (David McGoldrick) and Sharpy (Billy Sharp) too well but they welcomed me and took me under their wing.

"I'm still young but I feel that's me right now, helping the likes of Tommy, Macca and some of the some of the younger ones like Jebbo and Will (Osula) when he was here. He asked me for advice and I was thinking, 'You want advice from me?'"

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Brewster is certainly uninhibited around his team-mates, joking he threatened to knock Anel Ahmedhodzic out for trying to shoot rather than pass to him in training and breaking off the interview at one point to demand his noisy colleagues next door pipe down.

The results of that camaraderie are showing in the table.