Duo seek cure for play-off pain

Date published: Saturday 23rd May 2015 2:37

Swindon have failed on three previous occasions to win promotion to the second tier via the play-offs – in 2004, 2010 and 2013 – while Preston’s anguish runs even deeper, having lost all nine of the previous play-offs in which they have contested.

Swindon boss Cooper and Preston counterpart Grayson have stressed all week that history will count for nothing come the big day.

They will also deliver the same message in their final team talks before kick-off: Play the game and not the occasion, or you will lose.

“If I can give them one bit of advice it would be that they need to play the game,” said Cooper.

“They just need to play the game. This is a normal game, it’s not a cup final. It’s a league game and we need a win.

“That win can change everyone’s lives at the football club and they can get that win by just playing the game, not worrying about who’s in the Royal Box, not worrying about Aunty Irene in the stand and waving.”

Grayson is well versed in how to cajole his players to promotion – he guided previous clubs Blackpool, Leeds and Huddersfield out of League One – and his sentiments are the same.

“It’s going to be who handles the day,” he said. “Who handles the occasion, who has that little bit of luck here and there and who takes their chances when they come along.

“The players must make sure they give their all and remain focused on what they need to do.

“Don’t get carried away with the whole day rather than what’s actually going to be happening on the pitch.

“They need to carry out the instructions on what we’ve worked on already, play the game and not the occasion.”

Swindon closed the regular season in fourth place, 10 points adrift of Preston, who lost out on automatic promotion to MK Dons on the final day when a late goal at Colchester sent them spinning to a 1-0 defeat.

Cooper’s side edged through their semi-final 7-6 on aggregate against Sheffield United. Their 5-5 draw in the second leg is the highest scoring play-off match in Football League history.

“We’ve got to make sure we turn up and play with a real intensity and play how we play,” Cooper said.

“We’ve got to stick to that and really believe in it and go for it.

“My one wish is they go there and do themselves justice and show the millions of people who are going to watch what they’re all about.”

Preston quickly dusted themselves down to cruise past Chesterfield 4-0 on aggregate in their semi-final.

Grayson added: “The one thing I’ve always said to my players when we’ve been there is ‘make sure you have no regrets’.

“Hopefully it will be the team from the north of England who will be celebrating.”

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