Nigel Clough describes John Brayford as a throwback to a bygone era, writes James Shield.
So it came as no surprise to hear the Sheffield United defender reveal old fashioned values like respect and loyalty, not lucre, were the driving forces behind his return to Bramall Lane.
“Sometimes people get carried away in football. It’s all about money and stuff and it shouldn’t be like that.
“You shouldn’t be ticking through life just thinking about how much you earn.
“It’s much better to be where you mean something to people. People you want to make happy.
“You can’t take money to the grave with you. But you can take memories.”
Brayford collected plenty of those last season when, having joined United on loan from Cardiff City, he became a cult-hero, serial-winner and FA Cup semi-finalist within the space of four short months. But, as the former Derby County defender told The Star following his £1.5m transfer back to South Yorkshire, he is intent in making more.
“It’s six months down the line and I’m starting from scratch again,” Brayford, speaking earlier this week, said. “I know people expect things of me and I’ll do my best to deliver. I want to prove myself all over again.
“This isn’t a League One club but that’s where we are at the moment.
“Knowing the manager, the lads who are still here and the people he (Clough) works with, though, everything is in place to get success.
“We’re all like-minded people and if we’re pulling in the right direction then I don’t think we can go far wrong because the foundations are here.”
The bond between players, staff and spectators was unbreakable on Wednesday evening when United gave Tottenham Hotspur an almighty scare before bowing-out of the Capital One Cup semi-finals 3-2 on aggregate. Tomorrow, when Clough’s players return to the more mundane but no less important business of trying to reach the Championship, they must harness the same spirit again.
Brayford, who is poised to make his ‘debut’ against League One leaders Swindon Town, had been the subject of very public tug-of-war between United and City since returning to Wales in May. However Russell Slade, Clough’s counterpart across the Severn, was forced to concede defeat when it became clear where the full-back’s affections lay.
“I’ve never witnessed what I had here, with the fans, anywhere else in my career,” Brayford said. “That’s why I felt I owed them something, that I had an obligation to try and give something back.
“To let me play for their club, as it were, to treat me the way they did and then to want me back, well, it’s just a massive honour.
“I have a special connection with this club and I couldn’t look back on my life knowing that I’d not done this.”
“I don’t know why everything just clicked,” he added. “There wasn’t one moment when I thought ‘I’ve got to come back.’ It was just a combination of things, the whole experience I had.
“You can talk about fate but everything just fell right and I fell in love with the club and the city too. It just feels like I belong here.”
Brayford could be joined in the starting eleven by fellow new arrivals Paul Coutts and Kieron Freeman when ninth-placed United host Mark Cooper’s side. The 27-year-old started his career under Clough at Burton Albion before resurrecting their partnership at Derby County following a brief spell with Crewe Alexandra.
“This is the only club I’d have dropped down a division for,” Brayford admitted. “I said that last time and the same stands true now.
“The manager was a big pull of course and also the people behind him.
“They didn’t have to sell anything to me. It was an absolute no brainer because it had been playing on my mind, about coming back, for a very long time.
“I can’t thank everyone enough, including the people who put the money up. Because, by doing that, they’ve enabled me to fulfil something I always wanted.”