BIG games have become the norm for Sheffield United over the past 16 months and Mark Howard would not have it any other way.
The stakes are certainly high for both the Blades and Leyton Orient in their League One game tomorrow, with the former requiring a point to confirm their play-off spot and the latter seeking a priceless survival win.
The adrenaline rush in such climactic fixtures takes on an addictive edge for United in the view of goalkeeper Howard, not found wanting during two compelling runs to the semi-finals of English football’s two domestic cup competitions over the past couple of seasons.
Looking ahead to the definitive time of United’s season, Howard said: “This is why we play football. Games like this, situations like this, are fun.
“There is more on them. There is more at stake. We thrive on things like this.
“That is the fun of it. This is why we are in it, for these moments in your life and your career.
“Football is fun. It should be fun. Obviously there are times when it’s not, but we want to go into games with that feeling.”
While he would much prefer it if the Blades booked their top-six spot this weekend, you sense that if their fate rests on the final-day derby with Chesterfield, Howard will embrace it.
He added: “We don’t want it to go down to the last game. That puts a lot of pressure on. There’s no margin for error then. Football can be horrible at times, but if that does happen then so be it.
“We are prepared for both and it is in our own hands.”
The Blades may just require a point to nail down a play-off place – and can even afford to lose if Rochdale fail to beat Milton Keynes Dons – but Howard says victory is their mindset, not settling for a draw.
He added: “We need to win and then that’s it. We know a draw would be enough, but we want to go there and win.
“We are desperate to get over the line and cement our place in the play-offs.
“We’ve had a few frustrating games of late and things have not gone our way.
“Some of the goals conceded have been disappointing, but that’s football.
“Our whole season has been a little bit inconsistent. We know that and if we can rectify it, then good.”