Yellow Army will be there - just when we need them most
- Credit: Phil Mingo/PPAUK
Everyone with Torquay United at heart, and a few more besides probably, is looking forward to our big game against Notts County at Plainmoor on Saturday.
The two weeks we've had since the last league game at Altrincham has been really good for me, my staff and the players in terms of rest and preparation.
Play-off football is not like other football, and definitely not like your average league match.
Yes, it's more like cup-tie football, because if you lose you're out, but it somehow feels more than that.
It comes at the end of a 42 or 46 game season, and all that effort and slog hangs on 90 minutes when anything, good or bad, can change the whole game.
For clubs like us, Notts County, Stockport County and Hartlepool United, the 'promised land' of getting back to the Football League only makes it feel bigger.
I've tried to call on all my experience to get our team in the best possible condition, mentally and physically.
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- 3 Pre-season fundraiser in memory of footballers Kyle and Hayden
- 4 Retro Sport: Tracking Plainmoor heroes of the 1950s
- 5 Argyle sharpness defeats United
- 6 Laura will use Equity role to change attitudes about regional theatre
- 7 Regency-style terrace was leased to the rich and famous
- 8 Busy time in the transfer market
- 9 Farewell to Wellswood
- 10 £900,000 state-of-art gym signals start of new era at RIC
My first 'taste' of the play-offs was back in 1990, when I was assistant manager at Cambridge United in the old Fourth Division. The finals were held at Wembley for the first time that year.
We needed extra-time before beating Maidstone United (3-1) in the semi-finals, and then a header by a certain Dion Dublin (77mins), from a Steve Claridge corner, beat Chesterfield 1-0 in the final.
Nine years later I was on the late Graham Taylor's coaching team at Watford in the Championship.
We needed penalties to get past Birmingham City in the semis, but then beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 in the final.
I was a bit pleased with a Nick Wright header, because I was in charge of set-plays and it came from one of my corner routines!
As a manager I've had great play-off days with Yeovil Town, the disappointment of losing to Hull City at Wembley with Bristol City and a few promotions without the play-offs.
I know Torquay United and our supporters have been through the same over the years.
There's things I've done that have gone well in these situations, and some not so well.
Sometimes you can do nothing new and still win the game, but I've learned over the years that you can't take that chance.
You have to call on your experience and use it.
It doesn't necessarily make your team better, and I'm not going to give anything away about our team and our tactics.
But, when Downesy (assistant Aaron Downes) and I send the players out on Saturday, no stone will have been unturned and we'll be able to say 'We've done everything we can'.
The boys have responded. There's not one in the whole squad who doesn't want to do well for themselves, their families, their teammates, the supporters and the whole club - not one who I've looked at and thought 'He's not with us'.
I'm going to feel happy for the ones I select, and I'll be disappointed for the ones I can't pick - after all, not everyone can get in the 11 or on the bench.
But you never know what can happen before or during a match, so we always keep everyone very much involved. I keep saying to them 'be ready to be lucky'.
What we do know is that all the emotions will feel bigger on Saturday and, as I've already said this week, that's where the Plainmoor crowd will come in.
It may be a reduced capacity, but having all home fans and no away supporters is a unique factor.
I know our crowd. I realised back in the Conference South days that they're not only loud when things are going well, but they're great at knowing when the team needs them
They can be the difference in getting the result we all want - they really can...