LIVERPUDLIANS, Glaswegians, Londoners, Yorkshiremen – and a few Irishmen as well.
The dialects may be contrasting in the Sheffield United dressing room, but the commonality, esprit de corps and a willingness to ‘go to war’ as Enda Stevens puts it, displays a devotion to each other which transcends regional affiliations.
We are just all lads who want to play to the best of our ability and do well. The lads looking in who are close to playing are in with us and it is a tight-knit group.Enda Stevens
A band of brothers where belief in the united cause and not birthplace is the umbilical cord, according to the Blades full-back.
Those ‘all-for-one-and-one-for-all’ traits similarly served the Yorkshire club well during halcyon days under Dave Bassett, Neil Warnock and now Chris Wilder, with a touch-tight togetherness and ability to close ranks having proved definitive features.
For those who know their footballing history, it has also been exactly the same during golden times for Stevens’s country of Ireland, more especially during their heyday under Jack Charlton.
With one of ‘Big Jack’s’ boys now at the helm again in Mick McCarthy, team and not self is again the watchword.
Endeavouring to sum it up, Stevens, part of a United side who are aiming to maintain their unbeaten Premier League away record when they visit Watford, said: “It is hard to explain. The (Sheffield United) changing room is like a band of brothers.
“It is like you are going into war before the game and you are all together.
“There are going to be disappointments along the season. But we are all together and play for each other and it will stick with us this season.
“There are going to be games where we are not going to play too well like at Everton. But we stuck together and won 2-0.
“The togetherness at Ireland is also there. We are not really individual.
“We need the individual brilliance on the pitch and we have that here and with Ireland. But in terms of egos, there are no big ones, it is stripped away if you do have them.
“It is just lads wanting to work together and succeed. It can be a powerful thing. We have good leaders in both squads who lead by example. With Ireland, you have Seamus Coleman, here we have got Billy (Sharp) and Oli Norwood. That’s the main thing.”
Whereas Blades players and management toasted their promotion last season with their drink of choice in Birra Moretti, it was pints of Guinness that were regularly consumed back in the days of Charlton’s ‘Boys in Green’ after Irish successes.
The images in both cases may have pointed to enjoyment and letting off collective steam, but also spoke volumes about the camaraderie in both camps. All there and all in it together.
Different personalties, some quiet, some loud and some more combustible, all add to the special mix. But ‘big time Charlies’ are refreshingly absent.
Stevens continued: “There are different personalities (at United) and people who want to talk more and people who do not. We have got a great squad balance.
“We are just all lads who want to play to the best of our ability and do well. The lads looking in who are close to playing are in with us and it is a tight-knit group.
“Plenty of people talk. Some people come in and start arguments saying that they want this better and that and others come in and calm it down and get everyone together.
“It is a good mix. We have all got respect of each other on the pitch to know that whatever someone’s saying is not personal. You only want the best for the team.”
International recognition, a by-product of Premier League progression, may be increasingly – and deservedly – coming United’s way, but expect no-one to get ahead of themselves.
The form of Stevens, and John Egan in particular is increasingly resonating across the Irish Sea, with the former set to step in for the injured Richard Keogh in Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Georgia next Thursday – with a trip to Switzerland following on October 15.
The popularity of the Premier League has seen Stevens field a fair few ticket requests of late from over the water as well, but the last thing that the unassuming Dubliner will be doing is getting distracted.
Living the quiet life with his girlfriend Sinéad, baby daughter Bella Elaine and dog Shiloh and going about his business with no fuss is Stevens’s way – on and off the pitch.
“I have got a few messages to catch up on my phone,” he added.
“The support you get back home is brilliant and everyone wants to see us doing well and we are at the minute and they are enjoying it as much as we are.
“But I would not call myself a celebrity! There is a lot of attention, but you have got to keep yourself to yourself.”
Attention has gravitated towards the Blades’ excellent recent road statistics of late, with Wilder’s side yet to sample an away defeat this term after following up draws at Bournemouth and Chelsea with an eye-catching win at Everton.
All told, you have to go back to January 19 for United’s last defeat away from Bramall Lane – a 1-0 reverse at Swansea City – but as ever, Stevens’s focus is on what happens in the future as opposed to what has occured before on the football pitch.
When being told of United’s fine 12-match unbeaten away run, he added: “To be honest, I did not know it was that long.
“We do not look at that sort of thing and look at a game at a time. We go into games, home or away wanting to win, it is just the way we are and I think that has got us the success we have had.”