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Nelson Muntz
01-05-2006, 11:31 AM
Time to feel the pressure
By Aki Riihilahti

IF CESC FņBREGAS DIDNíT WIN THE Champions League, he would still be a highly rated and wealthy Premiership star with an outstanding season and the world at his feet. If Steven Gerrard didnít lift the FA Cup, he would still be one of the worldís best midfielders who has won every silverware there is at club level.
Winning or losing finals would hurt but wouldnít affect their everyday lives because they would still be successful and go on living and playing top football.
If Crystal Palace donít win the Championship play-offs, I could have to travel to Burnley again. At least I would be without an agreed work for next year.
English football is blessed for having massive games to come. These are very different to Championship play-offs, though. Promotion and relegation battles are not about trophies, fame and fortunes, but about playing for your lifestyle and future. It is what comes in front of you everyday.
Most people expect Crystal Palace to get promotion this season. Including ourselves. Iíve been constantly told we will get up because we have done it before. ďBeen there, done thatĒ is a weak currency, though, when it matters.
We might be even perceived as different gravy to the team that got promoted last time, but even that wonít help us on a pitch. And if we donít meet the raised expectations, at all levels directions will inevitably be revalued.
Does all this make the ball burn on your feet? Is the pressure squeezing the bladder? Scared? For me there is no greater feeling of existence than having a lot of things dear to me on the line in a battle. Suddenly I havenít worried about personal problems, upsetting circumstances, next season or any dodgy construction works. I donít know what Iím doing and where Iíll be living in three weeks from now, but I love this tension and the pressure.
The bigger the game, the stakes, the gap between success and failure, the better it gets. With Crystal Palaceís history, you can expect it is never dull until the last moment. My expectations for the games include also:
1. I expect small margins. There is not a great amount of difference on ability between the four teams. Everyone is easily capable of beating each other. What really matters is winning the margins. One bounce or a miskick can be crucial. Itís very different to a normal league game, where there is always room for this and that in the long season. Now there is only this, no second chances or time to put it right.
2. I expect pressure to reveal the character. Some people hide, some rise for the occasion. You can sense miles away the mood of nervousness and fear. Big games require personality rather than ability. Some have it, some are just trying to survive it.
3. I expect distractions. Phone just doesnít stop ringing. Suddenly every journalist wants to make a story. After not giving much attention to us before, now on the gates of the Premiership they demand to follow every step and think they can make a deep analysis about everything. Itís as wise to get away from that everyday media hassle as it is from turning into ticket office also. When we played Burnley in October I couldnít get even my friends anywhere near the Selhurst Park, but now, on every street corner, there seem to be available and willing people to come to enjoy the big occasions with all of their friends.
4. I expect itís not going to be about football. Letís face it, the games are probably not going to be classics. The importance of results will probably make it a more cautious and nervy game where everyone is avoiding mistakes. That includes the approach to the games. So if you like attractive football you probably better stay home and watch Barcelona on television instead.
What I donít expect is most people to understand what is the gap between winning and losing the play-offs. Sure, people can relate to the difference of going to watch Rooney at Old Trafford rather than anyone at Turf Moor. However, the life-changing professional, emotional and economical importance to individuals and clubs involved are not just a carnival around a cup final.
After the final whistle, we canít just turn off the television or go home, we have to deal with the consequences in everyday life. Whatever they are Iíll deal with them later, but now Iím just expecting we will be prepared the best possible way we can.
I expect another mindblowing play-offs and that we are going to get whatever we deserve from it. I expect that is going to be good. So that Fŗbregas and Gerrard could fearfully expect facing us next season.

PLAY-OFFS SEMI-FINALS, FIRST LEG

Friday: Leeds United v Preston North End (7.45pm) Saturday: Crystal Palace v Watford (12.15pm)

SECOND LEG
May 8: Preston North End v Leeds United (7.45pm) May 9: Watford v Crystal Palce (7.45pm)

adrenalin john
01-05-2006, 11:39 AM
good piece, I hope he plays.

John.K
01-05-2006, 11:42 AM
Originally posted by adrenalin john
good piece, I hope he plays.

I echo both sentiments

Sunny Fan
01-05-2006, 11:48 AM
Yup, very good piece

rambo
01-05-2006, 11:51 AM
Hope there arent too many Burnley fans reading that!

xmasape
01-05-2006, 12:23 PM
Aki gold.

DARREN TESTER
01-05-2006, 12:30 PM
Absolutely sublime , I dearly hope the Palace players read that piece.

Crate
01-05-2006, 12:52 PM
Despite all the speculation, that doesn't look to me like something written by someone who has already decided he's leaving us at the end of the season.