I went into these play-offs without feeling particularly nervous, worried or excited.
I didn’t think finishing fifth in League One was particularly impressive, and nor did I expect us to get past Sheffield Wednesday. Don’t get me wrong, Alex Neil has done a fantastic job since he arrived. He’s made us difficult to beat and more resilient and we’re on a fantastic run of form. But, I thought, we tend to hammer the smaller teams and stumble against the stronger teams in the league. Will we really get through three games against our fellow play-off contenders and come out on top, especially given our woeful record at Wembley?
Well, as is so often true, I was wrong.
The home game against Sheff Wed was an uplifting experience, taking me right back to those Premier League days. The flag displays were immense, the passion was spot on.
As for the football, my only worry was we only won 1-0. That purple patch in the first 20 minutes of the second half was the best we’ve played for years, but we didn’t score.
By now I was worrying and when we went a goal down at Hillsborough I could see extra time, their late winner, and another season in League One staring us in the face.
What a fantastic defensive performance to stand up to their onslaught and then catch them on the break with the goal which won the tie.
For once, I am going into a Wembley final thinking that we can do this.
No disrespect to Wycombe but ... actually, yes, let’s disrespect Wycombe. A dirty team who only just scraped into the play-offs, whose Wembley tickets will mostly go to the once-a-season brigade and blokes who like to shout “maaaaate” at each other while boring on about golf or lawnmowers.
We need this more than them and, finally, we have a manager and a team which looks utterly focused on doing the job.
The last Charlton play-off wasn’t great. It wasn’t just how poor we were on the pitch, we weren’t on top form as fans. It felt like all the celebrations in London the night before were the main event and the game was secondary.
That can’t happen again.
Everyone needs to be completely focused on creating the atmosphere the lads need to see off Wycombe. By all means large it up in Covent Garden on the Friday night, but make sure you’re ready to give Sunderland full-throated backing on Saturday afternoon.
The door out of this league is ajar. Let’s batter it down.