The world appears pretty much as it should when you look out the window.
Yellow-brown leaves dumped in growing piles on the ground? Check. A harder, colder edge to the sky? Check. People beginning to layer up against the invading chill? Check.
Autumn. It’s all familiar. We’ve done this before. And there should be comfort in that.
Yet these are unsettling times – and the patterns we recognise around us are not offering much relief from the jangle that’s been jerking us around for months.
As much as things look the same, they feel different – and football is not immune.
For players, the rituals of a match day are well-worn things.
Cumulatively, they add up to a meditative process; a comforting routine designed to gradually filter away the worries and distractions of real life, leaving, by the time kick-off rolls around, only a pinpoint focus on the intense burst of activity to come.
For those 90 minutes, nothing else can exist, and properly clearing one’s mind for them is a challenge at the best of times.
But what if the worries and distractions you’re carrying around relate directly to the experience you’re preparing for – a game of professional football.
What if, three days prior, your employer gathered you and your teammates to propose you accept a pay cut?
Would you be able to compartmentalise your emotions? Would your old rituals be sharp enough to cut through your concerns, your fears, even your anger?
That’s the task facing Dundee United’s players ahead of their clash with Ross County today.
The message coming out of Tannadice, from manager Micky Mellon and captain Mark Reynolds, has played down suggestions of unease or discord over cost-cutting measures.
“Everybody’s kind of on board with it,” Reynolds told the broadcast media on Thursday.
“There’s no great rush, there’s no great hassle. It is what it is.
“Over and above that, other teams have already crossed this bridge that we are now being asked to cross.”
That’s certainly true.
United aren’t ploughing a lone furrow here. They’re only doing what a number of sides – at all levels of the game – have done before them.
Football clubs, like many other businesses, are having to cut their cloth to fit our shrunken economy.
In that regard, United owner Mark Ogren is acting to preserve the club’s future viability – not to mention his own sizable investment.
He will have his own, multifaceted reasons for waiting until now to do so, rather than acting in the summer.
But the suggestion that players will remain completely unfazed by what’s on the table seems a wide-eyed one.
United have spent plenty of money to ensure their squad works in an environment where everything is geared towards performance.
Now, as a newly promoted team that NEEDS to consolidate in the Premiership, that is more important than ever.
Unfortunately, their delicate equilibrium has been rocked in recent days. How could it not have been?
The Tangerines will have prepared physically for today’s decidedly meaningful clash with County the same way they always do.
They will have tried to push financial concerns to the back of their minds, to stick to their routines, to seek comfort in familiar patterns.
As a result, when they take the field at Tannadice today, they will look like they always do, and they’ll be trying to do what they always do.
But as we’re all discovering, just because things look the same, doesn’t mean they won’t feel different.
By setting in motion the prospect of pay cuts for players and staff with the season already underway, that’s the risk United have taken.