Tony Mowbray bristles whenever anyone, usually a journalist or a bookmaker, suggests that this West Bromwich Albion squad is the strongest outside the Premiership.
"I am not sure on what grounds people are judging our squad," Mowbray said. "I would like a debate about whether we have the best squad in the league. The league table suggests we haven't got the best squad."
The Coca-Cola Championship table shows Albion in eighth position, ten points behind the leaders, Birmingham City, and without an away victory since Mowbray officially took over as manager on October 18.
It is not rare for a manager to play down the chances of his team — even Jose Mourinho has been known to show humility concerning Chelsea's aspirations — but to actually reject praise . . .
Mowbray could be using psychology (probable) or he might genuinely believe that Albion are over-rated (less likely), but there is no doubt that his players are coming close to proving him wrong — which is exactly what he wants.
The 5-0 victory at home to Coventry City last Saturday was a sign that Albion are better than their league position suggests and are probably better than everyone in the division apart from Birmingham. Indeed, at the halfway point of the season, only Birmingham have a better goal difference than Albion.
A quick look around the Albion training ground in Walsall will reveal that the club is awash with players of Premiership quality. Curtis Davies, Zoltan Gera, Diomansy Kamara, Paul Robinson and Jason Koumas are all capable of higher standards than those required in the Football League.
"A manager can talk but, once you get out there, and the ball is rolling, does it matter if you have the best squad?" Mowbray asks, rhetorically. "It is about having the best team."
And that is something Albion do not yet have. They are a team in transition and are still learning about their manager, who is in turn learning about them.
The dip in form during November and early December, in which Albion lost five matches, was easier to accept when one considers that the team had been selected by four men in a matter of weeks.
Stability has returned and all the signs are that Albion have momentum and can easily make up for lost ground, perhaps even mounting a serious challenge to Birmingham.
"Football is about getting the job done," Mowbray said. "What drives players is fear of losing. That is what drove me. It is about making sure no goals go into our net. I just want a team of footballers, not a squad on paper.
"I would suggest that, at the moment, we do not have the best squad or team.
"We have actually played very well. All the matches we lost, five of them, we could have won every single one. But we missed chances, hit the post . . . I'd like to think that I am man enough to know when we are not doing well.
"The balance of the squad still needs some adjusting. I understand where we are as a group and how far we have to go. I have to manage the expectation. I have my expectations and I'd like to think I am realistic, because I have watched the matches for the past two months."
This is Mowbray's team but in name only. Changes are inevitable and the early signs of his plans will come in January when he signs new players and lets others go.
Essentially, however, this is still a team that reflects Bryan Robson, the previous manager, who was probably dismissed too early. Mowbray does not expect it to fully reflect his own image and beliefs for another two years.
That was how long it took him to mould a team in his own image when he was the manager of Hibernian.
"There are no players here that I brought to the club," Mowbray said. "Some players don't react well to change, others react very well. It is the same in any job.
"I have moved house [last week] and that has been a change in your life. Sometimes it is strange and difficult but you have to embrace it and get on with it.
"How long will it be before I feel it is something I have moulded and built? A good while yet. I spent two years at Hibs and only towards the end did I feel as if it was a team that I had managed to mould.
"Once you get to that stage, two years down the line, then you think that it is your team."
Mowbray will not make changes for the sake of it but knows that something needs to be done, otherwise Robson would still be here and he would still be living in that beautiful city of Edinburgh.
"I am trying to move the family; I've moved house," Mowbray said. "This is part of my life. It is a life experience. For me, first and foremost, I want my family with me. After a hard day's work, you want to go back to your family.
"I have been living in hotels for the best part of two months. Sitting there with your own thoughts, it is better to have your family around.
"I am feeling my way into the job. I came and had a look, assessing all aspects of the football club. We are still in touch with things at the top of the table. We still feel as though we can have a successful year.
"Over the next few months, if there are any adjustments to be made, we will make them. If it means bringing in new players, and if it means a few casualties on the way, then that is the industry we are in.
"Teams change over a period of time. I'd like to think that, over a period of time, a team that I have managed to build has become successful."
Fortunately for him, time is on his side. He has 18 months to reach the Premiership. Auguries are good.