Aston Villa v Fulham: Championship play-off final – live!

How big is this game? Well, put it this way: Liverpool stand to collect around 90 million euros from winning the Champions League while Wembley’s winner is guaranteed around £160m, and at least £280m if they stay in the Premier League next season. It all seems rather quaint to remember that the winners of 2006’s final, Watford, went home with £40m while Leeds United took the gate receipts of £1.3m.

It is not, of course, all about the money, but the play-off’s unique sliding doors status makes it the highest stakes game in English football, and perhaps a more engaging occasion than the FA Cup final has become. Does it make for a great game? Not for a while, in all truth. Those days of Swindon 4-3 Leicester in 1993, Bolton 4-3 Reading in 1995, and Charlton 4-4 Sunderland in 1998 (one of the greatest matches of all time) are so last century. It has become an occasion where nerves must be held, and a single goal separates the teams. Only Norwich’s 2-0 defeat of Middlesbrough two years bucks the trend since Brendan Rodgers set on the way to be known by his first name with a 4-2 Swansea defeat of Reading in 2011. (As an aside, Reading must hate the play-off final, having lost three of them, including last year’s, on pens to Huddersfield.)

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via Football | The Guardian

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