Some have featured in nearly every game. Others count their playing time in hours or minutes.
But Chris Wilder, speaking after promotion was secured at Sixfields stadium, insisted every single member of his squad has helped haul Sheffield United back into the Championship.
“However small your contribution is, it’s a contribution,” he said. “No matter how big or small it is. Whether it’s coming off the bench, getting five minutes on the pitch or being involved every single week; they’ve all done their bit. Back there in that dressing room, I don’t look at any of them differently.”
Wilder’s words are more than just misty-eyed sentimentality or the emotional ramblings of a manager who has just guided the team he supports out of League One. With the likes of Billy Sharp, Chris Basham and Daniel Lafferty all recently testifying how tight-knit things are behind the scenes at Bramall Lane, the 49-year-old and his assistant Alan Knill base their entire footballing philosophy on emphasising the importance of the group.
“You try and build that spirit and fortunately for us, we’ve got it,” Wilder said. “That’s what we build everything on. “People will always have different opinions and you want that, you want them to have a view and be men. To have a thought process of their own. But you want them pulling in the right direction.
“If you don’t have that, and a few start going in different directions, well seven or eight aren’t going to beat eleven are they? If the eleven is strong, the lads on the bench are strong and the ones behind them are strong then you give yourselves half a chance. That’s what we’ve had.”
“We demand that emotional investment,” Wilder added. “They have to buy into it. They’re either fully in or they’re not in at all. They’re out.”
United guaranteed themselves a top two finish when goals from Leon Clarke and John Fleck saw them come from behind at Northampton Town. Wilder, who was unveiled as Nigel Adkins’ successor in May, led the hosts to the League Two title last term and admitted Saturday’s fixture had proved an emotional experience.
“The scenes in the dressing room at the end will live with me for a lifetime,” he said. “I’m just so proud of the players and the supporters.”
“Credit to Northampton for allowing us to celebrate,” Wilder added. “They are classy people here.”