I’VE won a play-off both ways. Once where I just missed out on automatic, like Derby. And once where I crept in at the death, like Brighton.
That’s why I’m not a big believer in this idea that you need form going into the play- offs. I think it’s whoever turns up on the day.
Just look at last year. Crystal Palace weren’t playing very well at all in April yet they beat two in-form sides in Brighton and Watford. The play-offs are about the width of a post, the eyesight of a linesman – it’s that fine a line that it usually boils down to luck. It makes picking a winner very tough.
In the Championship, Wigan have looked a little bit jaded in the run-in, but what else would you expect of a team who’ve played 60 games? They’ll need to regroup and they’ve definitely got the players to do it. The question is, have they got the energy?
At Derby, Steve McClaren is probably going for promotion a year earlier than he expected when he took the job. They’ve got the best midfield – Craig Bryson and Jeff Hendrick are as good a pair as anybody in the division – and are full of confidence.
But if I had to put money on it, I’d go for QPR. They’ve still got the squad, still got the individual class. They’ve got players with big-game experience. And with Charlie Austin fit again, they’re a much more dangerous side.
In League One, it’s hard to look past Preston. With their points tally, they’d have expected to be up already. Simon Grayson has done a great job. But at the same time, only a fool would write off Rotherham.
Steve Evans’ men have proved this season that they can beat anybody on their day and they’re a team who never know when they’re beaten.
Peterborough should just see this as a free shot really. Let’s be honest – with 18 defeats, they are incredibly lucky to have crept in. But with Britt Assombalonga capable of scoring against anybody, they’ll be a threat in a one-off game.
Orient have been the surprise of the season. They’ve done fabulously and I hope they don’t go in disappointed at having led the table for so long. They should just see the play-offs as a reward for a great season.
As for League Two, it’s incredibly tight. You may as well just put the four teams in a hat and pick one out. Fleetwood have the money and strength. Burton have the camaraderie in the dressing room. York haven’t conceded a goal in months. And Southend, who looked like they’d blown it months ago, must now be on a huge high after squeaking in.
My head says Fleetwood but, as a former manager, I’d like to see Burton make it through.