A simple answer to a routine question revealed much about the driving force behind Sheffield United’s march into the FA Cup semi-finals.
Surrounded by journalists, many from the national media, searching for an angle following last month’s quarter-final victory over Charlton Athletic, Conor Coady found himself being quizzed whether any of his colleagues from parent club Liverpool had offered their congratulations via social media or text.
“This isn’t about them,” the on-loan midfielder replied. “This is about us, this group of lads and what we’ve achieved.
“Yes, a few have been in touch but I don’t really want to talk about that. What I do want to talk about is what’s just happened here.”
Nigel Clough, who emphaised the importance of cameraderie and team spirit after taking charge earlier this season, will have been delighted with the on-loan midfielder’s response. Coady’s long-term future is still the subject of much debate. But what is certain is that, no matter how long he remains with United, the former England under-20 captain will not allow anything to distract him from the task in hand.
Although Anfield’s coaching staff have yet to reveal their plans for Coady when his agreement expires in May, privately Brendan Rodgers is likely to be delighted with how the 21-year-old’s stay in South Yorkshire has unfolded. Encouraged to leave Merseyside in order to further his sporting education, Coady has experienced just about everything the game has to offer since arriving at Bramall Lane.
Signed by Clough’s predecessor David Weir just hours before a friendly at Mansfield Town, he seemed destined to spend the campaign battling against relegation following United’s wretched start to the campaign before a change of manager and position proved the catalyst for a dramatic change in fortune on both an individual and collective basis.
Six months after the former Burton Albion and Derby County chief’s appointment, Coady is now set to tread the boards of arguably football’s greatest stage after a journey which started at the Weston Homes Community Stadium now sees United visit Wembley tomorrow.
“Coming here has improved me beyond belief,” Coady acknowledged recently. “I’ve come on leaps and bounds and learnt so much.
“To be honest, it’s made me a better person. Being around some top people with so much knowledge and the desire to do well.
“Really, I couldn’t have wished for more.”
Of course, developing off the pitch is all well and good. But it is on it where Coady must really impress to enjoy a long and potentially lucrative career.
The early signs are good – this is his first full season of senior competition after all. The talent which saw Coady make his Liverpool debut against Anzhi Makhachkala during the 2012 Europa League has always been in evidence. But, under Clough’s tutelage, it is now being put to consistent rather than sporadic use.
“The gaffer has been brilliant with me,” Coady said after that 2-0 triumph over Chris Powell’s side. “He makes everything so simple and he’s encouraged me to get into positions where I can make an impact.
“Before, perhaps I was concentrating on trying to do too much. Trying to impress and show what I could do whereas he tells me to try and influence things within what we are doing as a group.
“Basically, all the best midfielders score goals. That’s what they look to do and that’s what I’m being told to do now.”
Hull City have been warned.