Footballers are often accused of living a cosseted existence, writes James Shield.
Going about their business in hermetically sealed bubbles full of disproportionate wage slips, sycophants and Armani suits.
But spending time in Conor Coady’s company would convince even those happy to peddle such stereotypes that there are exceptions to the rule.
“Coming here, being around the place, has improved me as a footballer and as a person too,” Coady, Sheffield United’s on loan midfielder, told The Star last night. “You can get quite insulated when you are playing reserve team football because, although you always want to win, there is never as much riding on it as a proper game.
“Now, if we’ve lost, I go home and don’t talk to my girlfriend for about two days after. You really take things personally and, although she might not agree, I actually think it’s brilliant that, win, lose or draw, results really get taken to heart.”
Tomorrow, when Bradford City visit Bramall Lane, Coady is poised to make his second appearance for the League One club since the agreement, brokered with Liverpool during the close season, was renewed. The youngster, who captained England at last summer’s FIFA under-20 World Cup, has experienced pretty much everything his business has to offer during six months in South Yorkshire. Highs, lows and a change of manager to boot.
A defensively minded performer under Nigel Clough’s predecessor David Weir, the 47-year-old’s appointment in October has seen Coady handed responsibilities further upfield with his goal against Notts County six days ago emphasising that change of approach.
“The manager has been brilliant for me, absolutely spot on,” Coady, who Clough later claimed “should have scored hat-trick,” said. “The biggest thing is his honesty.
“If you do something wrong and he doesn’t like it then he’s the first one to jump straight on you.
“But, at the same time, if you do something that’s right then he lets you know as well. You’ll get praise.
“For any player, but especially a young one, that’s exactly what you want. It’s the only way you are going to improve. It’s not going to happen if people tell you lies or what they think you want to hear.”
“One of the areas he’s got me working on is my goal scoring,” Coady continued. “He’s encouraged me to get forward more than perhaps I used to.
“And he’s very big on making runs off the ball to create space and chances for others. You need to be able to do that, no matter what your position is, in the modern game. We do a lot of work on that in training which makes things enjoyable.”
United enter the meeting with Phil Parkinson’s side not only looking to avenge August’s 2-0 defeat at Valley Parade but also avert a third straight league defeat after being beaten by County last weekend. Nineteenth in the table - seven places behind their Yorkshire rivals - Coady nevertheless insisted United are now a more formidable proposition than the team which City encountered earlier this term.
“There’s a good attitude behind the scenes and a good strong focus. We’re still feeling confident even though we had a set-back against County.
“The lads are positive and I think, even though we didn’t win them, that’s been reflected by the fact we’ve taken the lead against both Walsall and County. Plus we’ve beaten (Aston) Villa in the FA Cup between those two.
“We’ve spoken at length this week about the importance of really taking control if we get on top from the outset. Punishing teams when they’re rocking.”
Clough made 44 appearances for Liverpool during a career which also spawned 14 England caps and encompassed five different clubs. Coady, whose future will be reviewed next month, said: “The gaffer speaks to me a lot and tells me how I can work on my game.
“He played for Liverpool and, although it was a bit before my time, my dad has told me he was a terrific player so you know the advice he gives you is going to be right and for your benefit.”
“I’m delighted to be staying here because that’s what I wanted,” Coady added. “I spoke to the manager after the Villa game and made it clear I wanted to stay around.
“I’m really made-up that he listened to me and took that on board.
“When I got in contact with Liverpool they were also really pleased with the way things are going so I’m glad everything got sorted out. They keep a close eye on how you get on if you are on loan so they know what’s happening.”
Speaking before negotiations with Liverpool were concluded, Coady, aged 20, revealed he would be happy to stay with United until the end of the campaign.
“I’ve grown to love Sheffield United as a club and also Sheffield as a city,” he said. “For me, there’s a lot of similarities between here and Liverpool because the people are down to earth and friendly
“That’s why, whatever happens in the future, I’ll always have more than a soft spot for Sheffield United and the place itself. It’s the type of city that people don’t really want to leave and it seems to suck you in.”