Two close to call
Chris Kamara looks ahead to the play-off final between Rochdale and Stockport.
Last Updated: 26/05/08 10:36am
There is no bigger game in the world than the Championship play-off final.
There are World Cup finals, European Championship finals and Champions League finals but the most valuable one-off game in the world is the Championship play-off final because the rewards are so massive - around £60million according to some estimates.
Often these games are hugely entertaining because there's so much riding on them. I don't think you can be too cagey because you've to go out and win the game; the carrot of getting into the Premier League inspires teams to go out there and go for it.
But while there is a large prize for the winners, the losers will have to come to terms with another season in the Championship - and maybe that's not as damaging as you might think when you look at Tony Mowbray and West Brom.
They lost the play-off final last year, but they moved on and won the division this season and Tony will be going into the Premier League with a squad he has assembled himself. But I'm sure the fans heading to Wembley this weekend won't want to contemplate seeing their team lose.
I was disappointed not to get called up to the Sky Sports team to cover the matches this weekend, but I'll definitely be tuning in at home to all three of the games...
Championship play-off final: Bristol City v Hull
2pm, Saturday, Sky Sports 1
At the start of the season you wouldn't have foreseen these two sides getting to Wembley, but it's been evident for the last few months that Hull and Bristol City would not be far away.
City have always been in the mix and were pushing for automatic promotion all the way through a fantastic season, while Hull came through with a late push and only just missed out on a top-two place.
One thing in Hull's favour is that they have more options coming off the bench than Bristol City and that may prove to be a decisive factor.
Perhaps the substitutions will be key - Caleb Folan, Craig Fagan and Nathan Doyle are likely to be held back in reserve by Phil Brown - but it's Frazier Campbell and Dean Windass who you need to be looking out for from the start.
They are a fantastic partnership and Campbell has enjoyed a fantastic start to his footballing education by working alongside Windass.
The two strikers give Hull different options; if the opposition play deep then Windass can destroy teams by coming short but if defenders play too high a line then Campbell can get in behind them.
Looking at the Bristol City team I'd pick out Lee Trundle as a key player. He's taken a while to settle and maybe the price tag was weighing heavily on his shoulders. A lot of supporters weren't enamoured by the club spending too much on him as a 30-year-old.
But thankfully from Gary Johnson's point of view he's shown in the last six weeks that he's good enough at this level. He's come good at a time when they really needed him to.
In contrast, Dele Adebola has arguably been better under Johnson this season as he has at any other time in his career. City fans have seen more top-drawer performances from him than other clubs he's been at.
The game is extremely hard to predict. Looking at the squad of 16 rather than just the starting XI, perhaps Hull have the edge but there are no guarantees that will be the important factor. Everybody has been writing Bristol City off all year, but Gary Johnson has defied the odds all along
League One play-off final: Doncaster v Leeds
2.30pm, Sunday, Sky Sports 2
I reckon 99 per cent of the clubs in League One will be hoping Leeds win this game.
They won't want Leeds to be in that division next year because they know they'd run away with it. Look at how close they got with a 15-point deduction this time around, so imagine what will happen when they start next season level with everybody else.
For me, that means there would only be one automatic place for everybody else to play for.
But that has nothing to do with what's going to happen in this one-off game because Doncaster Rovers showed in the semi-final against Southend what they're capable of.
That 5-1 win proved they had banished the disappointment of missing out on the top two on the final day of the season. That could have been a huge hangover, but they've proved they could handle it.
It will be interesting to see how both teams handle playing front of a full house at Wembley. Leeds struggled in front of a capacity crowd at Elland Road in the first leg of their semi-final, but once the pressure was off and the expectation level had dropped, they were able to perform much better in the away leg at Carlisle.
Leeds have a lot of good footballers, but the club is so big and the expectations are so high that some players might crumble.
Gary McAllister needs to rid that from their thinking and make them believe that they can perform in front of a big crowd.
Sean O'Driscoll will tell his players that they are the underdogs. Nobody expected them to show the form that they did against Southend and he'll want them to go out and show that again.
It will all be about who handles the pressure on the day.
League Two play-off final: Rochdale v Stockport
2.30pm, Monday, Sky Sports 2
It's a shame that Jim Gannon isn't talking to Sky Sports in the build-up to this play-off final because he has a problem with his satellite reception at home.
I think it's absolute nonsense for him to take that out on the football department and I don't think he's doing himself any favours.
I like Jim, he's a nice fellow, but I think he's being silly by turning this issue into a crusade. I hope the affair doesn't take away from Stockport's efforts and his own profile; let's hope he talks to us if they get the victory on Monday afternoon.
Jim is progressing as a manager and has improved the club every season. In his first year they avoided relegation, last season they just missed the play-offs and this time they've made it. He'll be hoping to go one further.
On the pitch I think Liam Dickinson has been in a rich vein of form and he's done very well for Stockport of late, so he will be worth keeping an eye on.
As for Rochdale, it has been a wonderful achievement for Keith Hill to get the team into the play-offs and the town is alive right now. His record at winning football matches is second-to-none and he must think the game's easy since taking over as manager.
They sold their best player, Glenn Murray, to Brighton in January but the team have pulled together, got stronger and full credit to them.
It's a shame this game is being played on the Monday and I hope the interest hasn't died down after the Championship and League One finals.
Once we knew none of the home nations would be playing in the European Championships, perhaps they should have reverted back to the traditional format with the Championship final on the Monday.
But these two teams are full of confidence and both managers will be delighted with the way they're playing, so we should see a good game.
Once again there's not a lot between the two sides and we'll so two quality managers who've improved their teams no end.