The confident way a player conducts themselves on and off the pitch, the forceful manner in which they shout and direct their team-mates; an unexpected canny insight during a post-match interview into where it all went wrong. Some players were destined to be managers, and two of that particular breed will be in the dugouts of Firhill tomorrow, when Derek McInnes brings his Aberdeen side south.
"You just know with some people," said Alan Archibald, his good friend from their time together at Dundee United and now McInnes' counterpart at Partick Thistle. "As a captain, everyone respected Del [McInnes]. He spoke to every player, every young boy. He's one of those guys who gains respect, just by the way he trained. He was the fittest; he learned a lot of good habits when he went down south and brought them back with him as well."
The pair were together at United for three years and, alongside Andy McLaren, took the drive north for training together. "It was great banter," said Archibald. "You could see, even at that age, that [McInnes] was thinking about being a manager. It wasn't a surprise when he took the job at St Johnstone."
Those daily road trips were not only the journey the pair have both taken. McInnes' in-house promotion to management was emulated later by Archibald. His was an impressive transition and the teething problems which many pundits predicted largely failed to materialise.
The pair still keep in touch - "He was one of the guys I phoned when I got the job here," Archibald revealed - but their camaraderie will be stored for a couple of hours in some dark corner of Firhill until it is retrieved post-match, presumably alongside some form of refreshment. Until Saturday, the only worry for Archibald is Conrad Balatoni's pulled hamstring. When the whistle blows, the visitors' pace and energy will be more troubling.