I HAVE had experience of the play-offs in League One with Leeds United, the pressure and the weight of expectancy of playing for the club.
That’s what drew me to Leeds first and foremost, the size of the club and to be deemed fit to wear the shirt was a great honour.
We lost to Doncaster Rovers in the final after overcoming Carlisle United in the semi-finals and the emotional adrenaline and energy that Liverpool and Tottenham expended to get through those Champions League semi-finals this week reminded me of uthat time at Leeds.
All the emotion and adrenaline we had to put into winning the game at Carlisle almost drained us to the point of not performing in the biggest game of all, the final.
Sometimes getting there takes the most Herculean of efforts and unfortunately on that occasion in that season, we went to Wembley with the tank empty.
But you have to give your all in those two games to actually get there and after that you have got to go again.
It will be very intriguing to see how this bunch of Leeds players do that ahead of their bid for promotion in the play-offs starting with tonight’s semi-final first leg at Derby.
I know it is within Leeds to be able to and go perform.
For some of Leeds’ players, this might be the biggest club they play for in the biggest game they ever play if they manage to get to the final.
You can’t get away from the fact of how much it means individually to players and that hopefully means that, collectively, there is an energy there that gets them through.
The play-offs are a huge test for Leeds but they have come through several tests already this season, be it off the field stuff or having certain players not available.David Prutton
The play-offs are a huge test for Leeds but they have come through several tests already this season, be it off the field stuff or having certain players not available.
What Marcelo Bielsa has done with a bunch of players who were fair to middling in the Championship has been phenomenal really but as much as we laud the managers, the players have to take great credit as well.
Yes, at a crucial time in two crucial games, results didn’t go their way but you can’t say they didn’t try their utmost in those two games over Easter.
Sheffield United pipped them and as much as there was a little bit of bite between them both, they have been worthy opponents over a long season, together with champions Norwich City.
You wave them on their way and you just need to think we have got one more chance here to create something. This is a Leeds team that the fans have become very fond of because of what they have done this season. There’s a lot to be proud of but to really go down in the history books they have got to get over the line. Form is part of it and if you have relatively similar squads available then you look at the two games in which Leeds and Derby went head to head this season and Leeds were fantastic.
The second one came within the context of Spygate and all the peripheral stuff and Frank Lampard’s career is now a few more games down the line compared to then and is again up against a master tactician who we have seen has been able to get the absolute best out of this side.
We have seen Leeds in one-off games run all over teams and now we are looking at three games. We are not asking them to put a 10-game unbeaten run together, we are not asking them to go through a whole season or a whole month unbeaten. What Leeds fans are asking for is just three huge efforts.
You look at Derby, the way they play football and the type of players they have at their disposal and a freshness that a manager like Lampard has brought and the form that they are in.
But what Leeds have been consistently good at this season is turning up in bigger games and providing the energy and the commitment that their manager absolutely demands of you.
Leeds can do it but my caveat to that is that Villa can do it and West Brom on their day have got two strikers with 45 goals between them so they will be a threat and we saw Derby beat West Brom. I’m not saying the play-offs are akin to four people slugging it out in a pub car park but sometimes you can look at it like that.
Leeds will be the favourites going into today but they have got to go and prove that and shoulder that burden and embrace the responsibility.
Watch tonight’s first leg at Pride Park on Sky Sports Main Event, coverage starting at 5pm.