After Sunday’s playoff drama which saw Blackpool just edge their way onto the right side of the line, we now get to one of the most exciting times in English football, as four teams attempt to realise their dream of playing in the top flight of English football. Nottingham Forest V Blackpool and Cardiff V Leicester will be play each other over two legs, in games where away goals do not count, so each team has something to play for in all the games. Then, when these matches are decided, two teams will travel to Wembley for a one off game, which has been described in recent seasons as the richest game in football. History of this exciting system would tell us that it is near impossible to pick a favourite from the four and its truly all up for grabs.
Nottingham Forest V Blackpool:
(First Leg – Saturday 8th May, 12.45pm GMT @Blackpool) | (Second Leg – Tuesday 11th May, 7.45pm GMT @Forest)
Third place Nottingham Forest will take on the plucky tangerine army in the first playoff game, and for Forest, a place in the playoffs seems like more of a consolation prize after the great season they’ve had, where at one point they were being tipped for automatic promotion. Just because Forest finished third does not make them favourites, and their final league result against Scunthorpe will give their fans cause for concern. Instead, it is Blackpool who come to this game in form, and the orange army will be looking to Charlie Adams for inspiration after the spectacular season he has had. Billy Davies does give Forest an edge however, as he has winning playoff experience with rivals Derby, so will be well accustomed to the pressure this mini competition brings. However, one thing that could hinder Forest players is Billy Davies’ recent quotes in which he claimed he would love the opportunity to manage Scottish champions Rangers and it is possible that Davies already has other priorities on his mind; Derby fans will know all too well that Davies is quick to jump ship. Blackpool’s DJ Campbell has ran into controversy recently, being linked with a nightclub stabbing, although the player has featured in recent weeks it will be interesting to see whether he can focused on the job in hand. In any case for Blackpool, they are happy to be in this position, and although much of the credit has gone to the hilarious Ian Holloway, he has deflected this praise to the clubs chairman and whatever the result, Blackpool can look back on this season with a big smile on their face. From what I’m getting from people in England, Blackpool will have a big backing from the neutrals in the playoffs, no more so from Premiership fans who would love nothing better than seeing their football team play followed by a night out in the seaside city.
Cardiff City V Leicester City:
(First Leg – Sunday 9th May, 1.15pm GMT, @ Leicester) | (Second Leg – Wednesday 12th May, 7.45pm GMT, @Cardiff)
Cardiff City has had an up and down time this season. Great on the pitch, but problems off the pitch have had fans protesting as the club was one of the many teams this season who were politely asked by the British government if they could pay tax money they owe. This is why this game could be make or break for the Welsh outfit, as Peter Ridsdale (a man that should not be allowed near football or any other business for that matter) appears to have plummeted the club into heavy amounts of debt, and their future appears uncertain. If the club fail to get promotion, they will need to sell off a number of assets to keep the tax man happy and promotion would help the club gain money they so badly need right now. Manager Dave Jones has rallied his Bluebird troops ahead of the two semi-final matches and the club will be hoping Michael Chopra and Petter Whittingham, who have both featured in a number of ‘teams of the season’, will fire to club to Wembley and help the club represent Wales in the top flight of English football. Leicester manager Nigel Pearson has issued a similar vote of confidence ahead of their ties against the Bluebirds, and the club have recently welcomed back the dangerous Matty Fryatt, who could be key to the Foxes promotion push. Nigel Pearson has done a fantastic job at the famous outfit, and from near bankruptcy in the past decade, to relegation two seasons ago to League One, Leicester are now facing the prospect of back-to-back promotions. It would be a dream come true for long suffering Foxes fans if they could have a trip to Wembley and a chance at the Premiership.
I don’t know where your money is at for this season’s playoff competition but all four teams are in quite different situations and we are bound to see a lot of emotion from the fans and on the pitch. The dream will come to one team, but you can’t think about Wembley yet, as the first hurdle is the semi-final and you don’t want to be a player who thinks ‘what if…?’