There isn't a great deal to interest reporters following Aston Villa's season at the moment, as yet another campaign goes whimpering down the gurgler - but we are amused at David O'Leary's belated efforts to improve his public relations with us.
It seems the penny has dropped at last in various areas with Villa's manager.
Banging on about being down to the bare bones with such a small squad, yet lucky to have such an honest bunch of lads butters no parsnips with Villa fans who either have an inflated notion of the club's declining status or are just naturally cynical, expecting the worst.
Any Villa supporter with a decent memory will recall that O 'Leary spent around #12 million last summer on six players, then brought in two more before the end of the August transfer window.
Bemoaning the inability to keep Eirik Bakke after the January transfer window is hardly a cause for lamentation.
O'Leary's attitude to Villa's admirable youth policy also seems to have warmed up recently.
Before, when given the chance to comment on the production line coming through - and there were eight of them in Saturday's squad of 16 - the manager would hum and haw, eventually conceding the system was functioning well enough.
The implication always seemed to be that jam tomorrow was all very well, but talented teenagers don't win you Premiership matches, so where's my war chest for proven players?
But now O'Leary is regaling the media with enthusiastic support for the youth system that's served the club well down the years.
I wonder if Doug Ellis has had a few sharp words in O'Leary's ear about those two vexed issues? Forget the significance of their chance encounter at Goodison after Villa's 4-1 defeat ten days ago.
The manager wasn't given a rollicking then, as the press filed past, pricking up their ears. O'Leary was making a routine call to the boardroom and happened to bump into Ellis and his operations director, Steve Stride.
They were bound to talk about the latest defeat but Ellis is not the sort of chairman to conduct important club business in public. A meeting between chairman and manager 48 hours later may well have been more relevant. Since then O'Leary has been notably sharper in his dealings with the media - and, by extension, the Villa fans.
Last Friday, at his briefing for the Fulham game, he oozed bonhomie. He admitted he was going to stop going on about his small squad and the departure of Bakke.
His stance was one of defiance, laced with sweet reason, acknowledging the frustration of the supporters.
As charm offensives go, it was the full works. One press wag called it Operation Offensive Charm.
I'm less vexed at this new development than some of my other media colleagues. Better to have a manager try to reach out to the public than stay in the bunker, lobbing grenades at reporters who fairly report on his players' inadequacies.
O 'Leary's proactive response to falling home gates and creeping inertia around the club may be belated, but at least he appears to have heeded some sound advice at long last.
Opinion seems to be divided in my trade about the reception given to O'Leary last Saturday.
I did notice he was cute enough to applaud the fans enthusiastically as he made his way to the technical area before the kick-off, even though few bothered to reciprocate.
The willingness to sign autographs for several youngsters at the end will have been gratefully noticed by the Match of the Day cameras.
Some of my colleagues felt that overall the manager got a supportive reaction from the fans, despite the arid display against Fulham. And the Villa players said as much afterwards - but they would, wouldn't they? They're staying resolutely on-message even though I've never thought a footballer caught up in all the action was the best judge of a crowd's disposition.
You have to go on instinct sometimes and an awareness of supporters' vitriol on past occasions at Villa Park.
I logged concerted booing at half-time, then after the local boy Luke Moore was substituted 20 minutes from the end, and also at the final whistle.
None of it approached the level of abuse the likes of Billy McNeill and Graham Turner copped near the end of their respective tenures but it's getting close to the anger and despair at the boring fare laid on by Villa's players near the end of John Gregory's tenure.
In such situations, most managers seem to be in denial. With two uncomplimentary banners hanging from the Holte End on Saturday, O'Leary chose the Arsene Wenger route.
He hadn't seen them, he told me. So I obliged, spelling out the messages contained in the banners.
O'Leary replied that if only two people out of 32, 000 in the ground felt that way, he could live with it. He knows that is putting a gloss on the situation with a commendably straight face.
He's not daft enough to believe that, but understandably won't admit it.
You can't blame him for privately wishing this season away and for publicly underlining the need for vastly improved performances at Villa Park in the remaining four matches.
He's setting a lot of store on changes to the club in the summer, with the possibility of Doug Ellis standing down and large transfusions of money coming in from the long-awaited takeover.
In public at least, it doesn't seem to have registered with O'Leary that the putative new owners might want someone else as manager.
But for now, O'Leary seems to be serious about building some bridges with those fans who remain sceptical about him.
There is one way he could manage that, in addition to taking the media more seriously.
He could turn up at a fans' forum, or go on the various local radio outlets to face direct questions from the supporters, without the filter provided by the usual footsoldiers of my profession.
It's six months since the chairman promised the shareholders' annual meeting that the manager would take part in such forums during the rest of the season. So far, he hasn't been on any.
Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson willingly subject themselves to such accountability, where the fans often pitch better and more direct questions than we professionals. David O'Leary isn't that secure to be so aloof.
Sullivan has every right to speak out on Blues' plight
In six weeks' time, we'll know if David Sullivan's lively broadside at his Birmingham City players was foolhardy or an inspirational piece of motivation.
The players have seethed privately at Sullivan's comments over their alleged lack of pride and commitment, in the wake of the hammering by Liverpool.
Yet Sullivan was perfectly entitled to air his views. He partly owns the club, signing the cheques that bring in more than #30,000 a week for many of his players and his opinion chimes with that of many fans.
All of the regular football reporters on this beat woke last Wednesday morning to a long, despairing litany of woe from Bluenoses on our text machines. For the rest of the week, we exchanged some of the wittier, libellous and bitter ones.
Premiership footballers do live a cocooned existence during the season, surrounded by backroom staff attending to their every whim and supporters desperate to be on first-name terms with them.
It's not a lifestyle that welcomes home truths delivered in an unvarnished style. Perhaps they do need more Sullivan-style reality checks.
The reality is that Blues are in intensive care and Steve Bruce has had to manage another critical period where Sullivan's comments only added to the febrile atmosphere. It was a great story and if it's helped sharpen the focus of the players, then so much the better.
Bruce faced up to the dilemma of split loyalties by siding with his players, stating that he wished Sullivan hadn't gone public. That was a wise decision.
At this stage, he must do all he can to get the players onside. He told them to stay out of the public debate and leave him to take the flak. The subtext was: 'I'll deal with it, shut up and do it for me out on the park'.
An improved performance against Manchester United at least restored some self-respect. The worry for Blues is that they face a tough run-in, compared to that of Portsmouth.
Harry Redknapp is an old hand in these situations and the likes of Fulham, Sunderland, Charlton and Middlesbrough may not be fully extended when they play Portsmouth.
So the nightmare scenario of relegation for both Birmingham and West Bromwich Albion can't be ignored.
Whatever the fate of Blues, the relationship between Bruce and Sullivan is under strain. Sullivan can be impetuous in his public comments - often telling a reporter that he's got two minutes and still rattling on after 30 - and he has made it clear that some of Bruce's signings in the past year haven't cut the mustard.
Bruce wouldn't take issue with that, but he regrets not being able to sign Curtis Davies in August and Paul Scharner in January.
In the January window, the manager could only bring in the raw D J Campbell and the injury-prone, ageing Chris Sutton. He was backed more enthusiastically by his board in January 2003, when Christophe Dugarry, Matt Upson and the rest came in, to great effect.
They haven't been Moneybags Blues for a long time. Home gates aren't large enough to compete in the transfer market and they try to compensate with salaries that are favourable for players who would not otherwise have entertained a move to Birmingham City.
Steve Bruce looks careworn and frustrated yet still hammers out a defiant message but there's a limit to how much he will take.
Although the whispers that he's lost the dressing-room are met with a dusty response, he's entitled to expect his players to prove otherwise on the park over the next eight matches.
There's another rumour involving Birmingham City that just won't go away - that David Sullivan has had enough, wants to sell up and get involved with West Ham United.
That would cut down on travelling from his Essex home and the hassles he gets at Blues. His money would be welcomed at Upton Park. The local press would also enjoy him.
What odds will anyone give me on Birmingham City's new season dawning in August with neither Steve Bruce nor David Sullivan at the club?
That really would deserve the phrase 'end of an era'.