Talking Sport: You have to love or hate the play-offs - and I love ’em

Gus Poyet guided Brighton to the play-off semi-finals, but no further
Gus Poyet guided Brighton to the play-off semi-finals, but no further

There will be plenty of football fans in Sussex who are not with me on this one right now - but I have to admit it: I love the play-offs.

Actually, can I amend that slightly? I now love the play-offs.

When they were first introduced in the late 1980s, I didn’t like the idea. Giving a chance to a team who’d finished sixth in their division to knock a team out of the promotion stakes who’d finish third didn’t sit easily with me.

And in 1993, my dislike of the things intensified when my team, Pompey, lost in the semi-finals to Leicester, who’d ended the regular season 12 points behind - and that with the aid of the most obviously-offside goal you’ll ever see.

But over the years, I’ve come to accept the play-offs are here to stay - and now I actually look forward to them.

My perspective is probably a little more positive because both the non-league teams I follow - Bognor and Gosport - have prospered in play-offs over the past couple of years. The Rocks had one play-off miss followed by success a year later; Borough have got up two seasons in succession through them.

For sheer drama, you can’t beat them. Take the Watford-Leicester game the other day. You surely didn’t even have to be a football fan to get wrapped up in the ecstasy and agony that classic produced.

The Brentford-Swindon game at Griffin Park a couple of weeks ago was just as memorable - all the more so as it involved the Bees going for glory so soon after they’d been denied automatic promotion in such a gut-wrenching manner.

Love them or loathe them, you can’t deny the play-offs add so much to the season for so many. In the old days, if you were sixth in March, your season was over - now, you can be 14th with ten games to go and still harbour hopes of promotion.

I hope the play-offs are never extended further - I wouldn’t put it past the authorites to get pound signs in their eyes on day and get eight teams instead of four involved in each division - and I hope we never return to the cruel early days when a side from the higher division was involved in them in trying to stay up.

But, sorry Brighton fans, I realise you’re still coming to terms with missing out and then hearing about Gus Poyet, the man who guided your team to the play-offs, being suspended.

But if they start marketing ‘I love the play-offs’ T-shirts, I’m getting one.

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