I HONESTLY don’t think there can ever be a true favourite in a play-off final.
Both finalists will have had a decent season to qualify in the first place and if you get through the semi-finals then even any late season disappointments are forgotten.
It is all about who turns up on the day, with maybe that little element of luck thrown in – and I think that will certainly be the case with this year’s Championship play-off final, as the two teams are very well matched.
There are, though, telling differences between the two. Hull are a lot more structured as a team than Wednesday, whereas I’d say the Owls have more individual match-winners. Lads like Fernando Forestieri, Barry Bannan and Gary Hooper are capable of conjuring a goal out of nothing.
Hull have very good players, too. There can be no doubt about that. I know Robert Snodgrass very well from our time together at Leeds United and he would walk into many Premier League teams.
I also believe ‘Snoddy’ will really suit Wembley, as there will be plenty of space for him to exploit. He has fantastic quality and this could well be his day.
The likes of Mohamed Diame and Abel Hernandez are also Premier League quality but I just think Wednesday have more players capable of turning a game in a moment.
What I also like about Wednesday is they have managed to keep under the radar. They have spent serious money on players like Forestieri and Hooper, and yet still managed to keep things low-key.
It has almost been like a quiet revolution at Hillsborough. So much has changed and yet, from the outside, it maybe didn’t look that way for a while, even when the money was being spent.
A lot of that is down to the manager. Carlos Carvalhal has deliberately gone out to keep his team under the radar, there have been no boasts about what will happen or anything like that. It has allowed his players to get on with the job and kept the pressure off them.
I like Carlos as a bloke. We had a good chat after both our games this season and I enjoyed them a lot. We even managed a bit of a laugh and a joke on the touchline, he is that sort of bloke. You can’t do that with every manager in the Championship.
Steve is another of the game’s good guys. He also has all the experience in the world, certainly in this country. I have been to three play-off finals in my managerial career and learned new things every time – and I made sure I used those lessons in subsequent finals.
Steve has won a play-off final with Birmingham and he has also been to Wembley twice as Hull manager.
Play-off finals are unique and that past experience Steve has could well provide the one per cent advantage needed to decide the game.
Of course, now both teams stand potentially one game from the Premier League the pressure is on. In that respect, Hull could have a slight advantage as their players have been in the Premier League most of their careers. Some have even played in the Champions League.
What I also like about Hull is they are a very hard team to beat. Curtis Davies and Michael Dawson are excellent defenders, very solid. They really link it together well at the back and both have bags of experience.
As I said earlier, Wednesday have more individual match-winners in their team. The thing is, are they as solid as Hull? Maybe not but that will make it fascinating to see who comes out on top.
Personally, I think the final is too tight to call. There really is so little between the two teams, especially if the big players fire on the day.
I honestly believe we could see extra-time and maybe even penalties before we know who will be heading into the Premier League. It really is that tight.