Filed: Saturday, 28th April 2012
By: Staff Writer
A slightly despondent Sam Allardyce bemoans the fact that 86 points wasn't quite enough to secure automatic promotion in his post-match press conference...
Sam: when you came in last summer you suggested at the time that nothing but quick promotion would suffice. Is that still the case?
Yes, I've stuck my head on the line and said that's what we want to do, get automatic promotion in the first season of asking even though I've got a two-year contract to do it. But doing it in the first year would be very important, we've still got three games to win - and we'll do it.
The first two are the most difficult, not the third one in my experience. The two-legged affair is the hardest thing to get through in play-off terms. Four years out of [the last] five 86 points has been good enough and it's not this time, so we're a little unlucky there. But we've had a very, very good season indeed considering where we came from and how many changes we made from day one.
So our ultimate goal wasn't achieved. We took it into the last game of the season to try and achieve it but we didn't manage it because we just left ourselves too much to do by having to rely on Coventry to get a result. We wake up tomorrow and look forward to preparing for the play-offs.
Sir Alex [Ferguson] would say that it's squeaky bum time?
Well it's been that for a while, I think. We've been so close and been there in the top two so long and it's only an outstanding, miraculous run of results from Reading that's taken it away from us.
As I said, four years out of five 86 points has been enough but because what Reading have done in the last 25, 26 games has been outstanding its congratulations to them and Nigel [Adkins]. But now we've got to lick our wounds, overcome our disappointment and get ready for the vital games ahead of us.
You were saying on the telly that whatever's gone on before...
...Doesn't matter, nothing at all. Not in my experience. You go into the play-offs as equals, everybody goes in there as equals. Everybody says there's more disappointment for the team that finishes third and sometimes that may well have been the case, but there are times where the third team have gone through and achieved it. I did it at Bolton when I was there.
One season we finished with 87 points, never mind 86 and didn't go up. But we managed to get through the two legs. Why I'm saying the most difficult thing is the two legs and to not think about the Final whatsoever is that after 35 minutes of the first leg I was 2-0 down at West Brom and staring into the abyss. We had to find a real fighting spirit and a change of attack to get back to 2-2.
That was a critical 30 minutes - then we won the second leg quite comfortably in the end and went on to win the Final. So the Final means nothing to us now at the moment, it's about the two legs - and only the two legs.
Do you think the way this season's been you'd prefer the away leg second?
Not the way we're playing now because we've just battered [Hull]. We've battered a lot of teams here; Brighton in the first half, let's face it. We did what we had to do in terms of battering Hull City but what was disappointing was our lack of conversation for chances created, because it should have been two or three by half time like Brighton was.
But Coley did the business in the second half and then we took everybody off that we felt we needed to take off. The game obviously drifted away because there was nothing in it for either team in the end. The win was very good for us because it's two very good performances [in succession] and a terrific comeback against Birmingham in the second half here, so our form is as good here as it is away.
How are you going to lift spirits over the next few days - and how difficult do you think the challenge is going to Cardiff, which is quite a hostile place?
Well we go with the confidence that we beat Cardiff 2-0 at their place already and we go with the confidence that we're the third best team in the league. So if we hit our form and we hit the level of performance that we know we can do, that confidence should spill over into that game.
But like I said, the pressure of the play-offs is unique in itself - as is being able to handle the experience because there's no other experience like it. There's no Cup game or league game that has the same atmosphere as the play-offs have. So we've got to handle the atmosphere and deliver on the day.
Given your away record this season is it important you approach Cardiff away on Thursday in the same way you'd have done a normal league game? Or is there a tendency to change strategy?
No; I think that our performances and our strategy away from home has been the backbone to a really, really good season for us. The only thing that we slipped up on was drawing matches, not losing them. So there's a fine line, that's very small indeed in terms of draws to wins. I think that our performances away from home - and our results away from home - have been outstanding.
So we'll approach it in the same manner. But what we have to do is handle the pressure that the play-offs bring, to deliver a certain type of performance. That's what we've got to do.
Irrespective of what happens in Cardiff, there's the next 90 minutes. I won 2-0 at Bradford away when I was at Blackpool and lost 3-0 at home in the second leg, so anything can happen. Any twist or any turn at any given time; that's why they're unique in terms of pressure and atmosphere. We've got to be able to handle it.
Today's substitutions; there's no injuries or anything like that?
Yes, there's a bad injury to Gary O'Neil resulting from a very, very poor tackle on him that the referee chose to ignore - which was very disappointing from my point of view. One, the referee never took the decision to punish the player - and two, more importantly, Gary was left hobbling badly and looks a big, big doubt for Thursday.
Over the last ten games or so he's been one of our most consistent and outstanding players following his long term injury. Unfortunately for us it is on the injured ankle that he's got the bad tackle.
Who's the player who caught him?
I can't remember. I'm not bothered about the player who caught him but the referee doing his job.
Kevin Nolan's alright?
Kevin's is a dead leg which is generally not going to cause him any problems, but he was restricted in his movement on the field so we took him off. Carlton had scored two and done his job, Vaz Te as well so we rested them as quickly as we could. We rest our leading goalscorers to get them ready for the big two.
Okay? Thanks lads.
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