Conor Sammon does not look like an academic but, beneath the shaven skull and designer stubble, lurks a deep thinker who enjoys the tactical debates Nigel Adkins chairs before every Sheffield United game.
“There are managers out there who take the approach that it’s their way or no way,” the centre-forward revealed. “But here, it’s a little bit different.
“He tells us what he wants but he also gives us the option to voice an opinion or give our thoughts on things. We’re always bouncing ideas around and, from my perspective, that’s good because it gives everybody an investment in what we are doing. It creates a scenario whereby we are more likely to achieve the best possible outcome because people are thinking more.”
Appearances can be deceptive and Sammon, signed on loan from Derby County last summer, is the proof. The 28-year-old earns his living scoring goals and smashing defenders but, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s League One fixture against Millwall, revealed he often pauses to reflect upon his “privileged” life and the responsibilities it brings.
“I know it’s a cliché for footballer to say but, really, we are so lucky doing what we do. I’m living the dream as far as I’m concerned and have been ever since I got involved in the game. I appreciate it massively and, in a round about way, I believe most players do even if it’s not talked about explicitly or spoken about. But, yes, I’m sure there are some who take what they’ve got for granted. Especially if they’ve been in the system, as it were, all their lives.”
“There are people who pay hard-earned money to come and watch us and, no matter what else happens, you’ve got to show that you are giving everything,” he added. “So many of them would love to be in our position and, because of that, the bottom line is showing the right attitude.
“You’re in the wrong kind of job if you don’t enjoy doing what you’re doing. Yes, sometimes it can be hard because you are so focused on trying to put in performances. If you win, then you’re high for an hour or so before focusing on the next game coming up. But I’m a positive person, that’s the type of attitude I’ve always had and enjoyment is massive.”
Sammon’s combination of physique and finesse - his touch and pass variation make a mockery of the notion the Dubliner is simply an old fashioned targetman - could hold the key to beating Neil Harris’ side at Bramall Lane. Relegated from the Championship last term, Millwall made a predictably slow start to the season after undergoing an extensive makeover ahead of the present campaign with Martyn Woolford, now of fifth placed United, among a clutch of players to leave The New Den. However, the visitors, in 14th, have shown signs of acclimatising to their new surroundings with Swindon Town and Rochdale among their most recent scalps.
Sammon, who rose to prominence in Scotland with Kilmarnock, is aware that United’s, if claimed, would be viewed in Millwall’s dressing room as the pick of the bunch.
“I’ve seen it from different angles during my career,” Sammon, who also represented Wigan Athletic before moving to the iPro Stadium, said. “It helps you understand the mind-set of your opponents, in the situation I’m in now, even better. At Kilmarnock, we were coming up against some so-called bigger clubs - Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Hibs - all the time. They were bigger teams, with a bigger fan base and pretty much a bigger everything than us. But, before matches, we’d say to each other ‘Okay, that might be the case, but let’s show them that we can play, that we’re not to be written-off’ because we don’t have as many fans as you or whatever.’ It’s a great motivation.”
“It’s up to us to take on the pressure that comes with being a big club or the favourites to go up,” Sammon continued. “And part of that is ensuring our standards maintain consistently high.”
Sammon is confident that Adkins’ diplomatic rather than dictatorial approach will help that process.
“The attitude here is spot on,” he said. “And that stems from the manager, the type of person he is and what he’s looking for. I’ve been in dressing rooms before where there have been big egos or people who thought they were better than where they were. Trust me, it causes problems and a negative mood that can spread. This one isn’t one of those, it’s the exact opposite in fact. It’s full of grounded players who are ready to help each other out and who realise that it’s all about the squad, not just the 11 who start.
“We are all going to contribute. We’ve got a huge group but it’s important for us all to be on the same page and clubbing together.”
Adkins, who completed the signing of Dean Hammond on emergency loan from Leicester City earlier this week, could recall Sammon to the starting eleven for tomorrow’s game against opponents unbeaten in their previous three visits to Bramall Lane. Millwall, without Carlos Edwards following his red card at Blackpool three days ago, last tasted defeat at the stadium in March 2004, the final year of the old First Division before it was rebranded as the Championship.
“There are so many games now, especially in this division, that it’s almost impossible to keep the same 11 every single week,” Sammon said. “But the competition for places here now keeps everybody ready to slot in.”