Weblog: The football punter

Drawing on my experiences of pressure

I was playing pool in the pub the other night and missed a simple black because of the pressure on the pot so I know all about how the Middlesbrough and Norwich players will be feeling on Monday ahead of their Championship playoff final at Wembley.

Sure, my pool side bet was a tenner rather than the £120 million that will be up for grabs to the victors but it was still the same feeling.

You want to win, you need to win, but you cannot always perform to the same standard when the palms get sweaty and the mouth is as dry as the Sahara.

However, I do wonder whether being in the Premier League is all that anyway and maybe Alex Neil and Aitor Karanka should be stressing the point in the pre-match team-talks.

The novelty of Alan Shearer giving you credit and Gary Lineker making some smug joke on Match of the Day will wear off soon enough (some time in August usually) and when you’ve been to Stamford Bridge and been beaten 1-0 once there isn’t any great desire to return.

Surely it is better to be one of the top dogs in the Championship, winning most matches and scoring loads of goals (as in Norwich’s case) or keeping loads of clean sheets (as in Middlesbrough case) than getting battered most weeks in the top flight.

So whoever loses shouldn’t cry themselves to sleep on Monday.

Remember you are the real winners - okay you won’t have that dream trip to Crystal Palace to keep you going all summer and your club will be £120 million lighter - but it’s long odds-on you will see your team win more matches next season and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

In my opinion the Championship playoff winners will be the real losers and the losers will be the real winners.

So who wins? My money is on the draw.

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Match in Focus

15:00 TODAY SS1

Middlesbro v Norwich

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Alex Neil has a win percentage of 66.67 since taking over at Norwich
Expert verdict
The Wembley battle to secure a place in the Premier League should be a typically tight game and that suits patient, well-organised Middlesbrough slightly better. However, Norwich showed in their semi-final against fierce rivals Ipswich that they can handle the anxiety that surrounds fixtures such as this and City's extra goalscoring prowess can get them promoted.