Unguarded comments, especially in the spin obsessed world of football, are becoming increasingly rare.
But those moments when a manager, player or director speaks without their words being chopped, censured and polished by a club’s PR machine, still provide the most telling insights into what truly makes them tick.
And so it proved earlier this week when a seemingly throwaway line from Nigel Clough, uttered as new signing Ben Davies discussed his imperfect preparations for Wednesday night’s victory over Gillingham with the press, revealed much about the methods now being employed behind the scenes of Bramall Lane.
Davies, for those of you who are still unaware, had travelled to Kent with managing director Mal Brannigan after his loan from Derby County was finally processed less than three-and-a-half hours before kick-off.
“I was sat in the office at the iPro (Stadium) at 3pm,” the midfielder explained. “And then had to dash to the training ground to collect my boots and stuff at around four.
“That’s the first time I’ve had a Greggs pasty for my pre-match meal. I walked into the tunnel just as the teams were going out onto the pitch. It was too late to start but at least I got here.”
So would Davies be returning to South Yorkshire with Brannigan or travelling on the team coach? And had Brannigan, loitering in the background, realised the chauffeuring duties formed part of his job description after joining United nearly two months ago?
“That depends,” Clough, as Davies prepared to answer, quickly intervened. “On whether they enjoyed the conversation and company. Seriously, though, that’s what we do here. It doesn’t matter what your role is, everyone mucks in.
“That’s how we like it and, as far as we’re concerned, how things should be.”
‘We,’ as regular readers of this column will have realised, is a word Clough uses often. During conversations with the United manager, there is a noticeable absence of ‘I.’Likewise, coded-messages, duplicitous themes and double-speak.’
Just, whether you agree with them or not, simple rules, opinions and instructions. Back to basics if you like.