Today is one of the best days in the football calendar: it’s the Championship play-off final. Aston Villa and Derby County are going to be facing off at Wembley, with the winner gaining a place in the Premier League next season. In the English game, especially, it doesn’t get much bigger and better than that.
The pain of losing at Wembley is something no football fan should be subjected to, but in equal measure, the ecstasy of success is unlike anything you’ll ever feel in your life.
The game itself is set to kick off imminently, and by the time you read this, you may already be aware of who has booked their ticket to the top flight. BBC and The Guardian will be keeping fans up to date throughout the course of the 90 minutes, and potentially, throughout the course of the 120 minutes – with the possibility of penalties still being on the table.
Here we go again
Villa come into this game with the memory of last season still feeling pretty fresh, after they lost to Fulham on this very stage. Very few teams have been able to return for a second consecutive year in the play-off final at this stage of the game, but then again, Villa are unlike many other teams.
On the other hand you’ve got Derby County, who have had their own share of heartbreak at the home of English football in recent times. They lost to Queens Park Rangers back in 2014, with a last gasp Bobby Zamora winner getting the job done for Harry Redknapp’s men.
Beyond all of the noise and grandeur of this game, though, there’s an important message that needs to be sent to the fans in attendance: just go out there and enjoy it. This is, for some, a once in a lifetime occurrence, and even if it isn’t you should be treating it as such. Nobody knows how quickly things can disappear in football like the fans themselves, and it’s easy to get carried away in the emotion of trying to ‘predict’ what’s going to happen. This is the point in the campaign whereby all predictions, statistics and forms of logic go out of the window. All that matters is the game itself – and you need to embrace that.
Allez allez allez
The Villa are considered to be the favourites by many, but let’s be honest, that isn’t going to matter one bit when it comes down to it. Derby have conceded seven goals against Villa without scoring in their two league games against them season, but do they care? Not one bit.
You’ve also got the running storyline of John Terry vs Frank Lampard, but let’s face it, this isn’t about Chelsea. This is about something so much more than that, and we honestly can’t wait to see how it all unfolds in just a matter of minutes.
To the rest of the clubs that are set to play Championship football next season, take a look at this game today and remember what you’re playing for.