Date:Friday May 11 2007
As a veteran of no fewer than six play-offs prior to this season, there can't be many people with more experience of the raw emotion they can provoke than Colin Calderwood.
As a player, the defender experienced the high of promotion on three occasions with Swindon Town, while only suffering the torment of defeat once.
Since he began his management career, fate has been less kind, seeing him twice narrowly defeated at the semi-final stage while in charge at Northampton Town.
But, despite the sharp stab of pain those memories still provide, Calderwood still looks upon the play-offs fondly.
'The tension you get in the body before the play-offs is like no other,' said Calderwood.
'Once the game starts, you are obviously aware of what hinges on it. But those matches have been the most enjoyable experiences I have had in football.'
Calderwood says he will only have a few words of advice for his players, as they prepare to face Yeovil in the League One first leg tonight.
'It is not different to the way you approach other games,' he said. 'A goal at any stage is very important.
'If you feel you have a period of the game where you feel you can score, that is important.
'If you score in those periods it can make a massive difference.
'I had all sorts of leads with teams as a player in the play-offs. I have been in a position where we had a three-goal lead with 40 minutes to go.
'But they were among the most nerve-wracking 40 minutes of football I've experienced.
'Even when you have an advantage in the second leg, whether it is two goals or three goals, all you think about is what you might lose.
'You don't think about winning the game, you worry about them coming back and taking the game into extra-time.'
And Calderwood knows from experience how quickly the course of a game can change.
Two years ago his Northampton side lost 2-0 at home to Mansfield Town but then, by five minutes into the second half in the return leg at Field Mill, they were winning 3-2.
Ultimately, they were still to lose on penalties.
But Calderwood says he has learned from the experience.
'If you are chasing the game, then things can change very quickly,' he said.
'But you also have to remember that no game is ever dead.
'You have to have belief, whatever happens in the first leg. But having the second leg at home will be an advantage.
'But I hope we will be building on a lead at the City Ground, not coming from behind.'
Looking back on his experiences as a player, Calderwood says his squad should go into the games with nothing to fear.
'We (Swindon) were in it in the very first year of the play-offs and we managed to get promotion from this division,' he said.
'It was a two-legged final as well, back in those days.
'But we got to Wembley a couple of times after that, after the rules had changed, as well.
'The greatest thing in football is, having done it once, you go there again not feeling frightened.
'So the message to the players is that there is nothing to be frightened of. It is very exciting.
'Once a game gets started, there is a different atmosphere, there is an excitement and a tension to them.
'But there is enjoyment to be had, at least if you are successful. You have to be very aware of your emotions, because you don't want to do too much different.
'What we have done so far has been good enough to get us into this position, so you don't want to change things drastically.
'If you do that, you will not show your full potential - but if we play to our best, we will get to the final.'
Calderwood knows that Yeovil boss Russell Slade has experience of the play-offs, having guided Grimsby to the final last season.
And, having clashed with the former Notts County boss more than once over the last few seasons, Calderwood is expecting a tight game tonight.
'Russell got Grimsby through to the final before, hopefully it is my turn now,' said Calderwood.
'We ran into each other before, with Northampton against Grimsby, and the games were always very tight.
'I think 1-0 and 1-1 have been the only two scorelines when we have come up against each other.
'That is not because we have set out to defend. But both are well-organised and structured teams.
'The advantage we have is that we know we can beat them, because we have done it twice this season, but the games against them were so close. We will try to dominate them, to nullify their threat and to be aware. We will prepare for all possibilities.
'Their strength comes in being strong in defence and being organised all over the pitch.
'We know all their options, but Russell is a very shrewd manager and I am sure he could come up with something different to the norm.'
For the winner, over two legs, there is the prospect of a trip to Wembley.
For Calderwood, it would present his first chance to visit the national stadium as a manager.
But he says that is a secondary issue to him.
'It does not mean as much to me as it would to get promotion,' he said.
'That is the thing that I look at. It is not going to Wembley that really excites me, it is the chance of winning promotion.
'Going there and winning would excite me. We want promotion, that is our goal.'
Just maybe, for Calderwood, it will be seventh time lucky.
Nottingham Evening Post
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