Just a mention of the two words ‘club captain’ to Tom Cleverley and a broad smile broke across his face.

He’d just played 45 minutes of the friendly at Hitchin Town, and he gladly posed for selfies, chatted to young fans and even recorded a video message for someone’s Mum!

You can tell he’s thrilled to be given the armband, embraces the demands it brings both in terms of leading the players and being an ambassador for the club, and there is no doubting the sincerity of his thoughts about it.

“One part of me says that nothing will change in how I work and I’ll still try to set standards and good examples, but I also can’t hide my delight at being made club captain of a club that I care so much about,” he said.

“Those aren’t just hollow words from me. I hope people can see that in my actions, on and off the pitch. I will give everything for the club. I am massively proud to be captain.”

Cleverley has seen the ups and downs at Vicarage Road, and he speaks with intelligence and sense when asked to expand on what he thinks needed to change at the club.

“One of the conversations I had with the gaffer in the summer was about our need to be a club that the staff and our fans can relate to again. Because we lost our way, you can’t hide that,” he said.

“We didn’t play like a working-class team last season and the fans want to see a better attitude than they saw from us.

“We want to be a relatable football club again and I have to lead the way in that, on the pitch and off it. I might not start all 46 games so there will probably be times where we have different captains on the field, and that’s not a problem because the gaffer could have picked any from five or six as we have so many leaders.

“Christian Kabasele was fantastic through the tough times last year, he looks after the French-speaking lads. Dan Gosling and Craig Cathcart are fantastically experienced and are great examples to younger players, William Troost-Ekong is a leader of men and captains his national side. So there will be plenty of people to support me and guide the younger players. There is a really good mix in the dressing room. We’re in a good place.”

Cleverley believes the club stands on the eve of this new season looking more united and better prepared than it was 12 months ago.

“It’s a squad that has on the whole known each other for 12 months now,” he explained.

“Last summer we were thrown together from all corners of the globe and we didn’t really know each other. Personalities clashed a bit and now here we are, 12 months older and wiser with a slightly different squad and a much better spirit in the camp.”

He attributes much of that to the new head coach, Rob Edwards, who was also at Hitchin for the friendly, standing at the back of the terrace behind the goal.

“I love the gaffer’s ideas,” said Cleverley. “His approach to everything is very modern. He has a system but he can also adapt, and he’s let us know that. On the football side of things I’ve been very impressed.

“A bit like Xisco did he’s also galvanised us just by bringing out people’s personalities. He lets people express themselves and always made himself very approachable.

“On day one I watched him taking lads for a walk round the perimeter of the training ground, just having a chat – maybe not even about football, just getting to know them. Young players and old players, he wants to know us as people.

“He touches base with the senior lads on a daily basis and I really think it could be the start of some long-term success.”

Of course, Cleverley is a member of what is now being dubbed the ‘Over-30 club’ after Dan Gosling’s interview. And like his midfield colleague, Cleverley gives short shrift to the idea that the senior members of the squad will struggle to meet the demands of the Championship.

“Dan is the fittest player in our dressing room by a long way, and he’s over in that ‘Over-30 club’! His fitness levels are an inspiration to the rest of us older lads,” said Cleverley.

“The age thing doesn’t bother me one bit. It is really just a number. I think football sometimes stereotypes things so that when you get past 30 people think you’re coming to the end. I’m still enjoying football and I enjoy the responsibility that comes with being one of the older players.

“The thought of a 46-game season doesn’t faze me at all. I love it. The glitz and glamour of the Premier League is great, but being competitive in a 46-game season is a challenge that I know I will thrive off. Bring it on.”