IT’S the climax to the season, it’s being played at the home of football and it’s got it all.

Passion, drama, inevitable controversy and unpredictable skill. This week, thousands of fans from two different countries will pay a small fortune to watch all this and more in the match that BBM looks forward to most each year. The Champions League? Bollocks to that. It’s the Championship play-off final. Hurrah!

Ever since we saw Grimsby legend ‘Super’ Clive Mendonca bang in a hat-trick for Charlton during one of the greatest games of football we’ve ever seen during an all-day bender in Huddersfield, BBM has been in love.

This year, Reading take on Swansea for a place in the Premier League in a match that, depending on which newspaper you read, will earn the winner somewhere between $165 squajillion and all the gold in Scrooge McDuck’s diamond-encrusted money pit.

The beauty of the play-off final over the Champions League is that it’s got soul. OK you’re not going to see Lionel Messi nutmegging Nemanja Vidic, distracting Rio Ferdinand with a card trick and then backheel-chipping it over Edwin van der Saar ? but what you will get is local hero Dean Windass shrugging off his age and darts-player physique to smack home a cracker of goal and give several thousand Hull City fans the best day of their lives.

Because it’s played by two Championship teams, there’s none of this keep-possession-at-all costs style of European play that’s infected the top-flight either, instead there’s always a glimmer of that na•ve ‘gung-ho’ British approach that makes the game so much more exciting back home.

The play-off final also means more to these clubs, and we don’t mean in a ‘Man Utd are always playing at Wembley’ kind of way. Winning this game can literally ensure a club’s survival for the next three years and also guarantees them games against some of the biggest clubs in Europe, while losing it can bankrupt them and get them relegated to League Two 12 months later. Massive pressure inevitably means mistakes and frequently massive scorelines. And if you’re anything like BBM, a massive scoreline means a massive erection. Have it!

…Top Five Play-Off Finals…

Swindon 4 Leicester 31993
Swindon 4 Leicester 3

Leicester came within a whisker of one of the great football comebacks after finding themselves 3-0 down with almost an hour of the game gone against Swindon. Amazingly, three goals in 11 minutes put the Foxes back on level terms until referee David Elleray (pictured) gave a controversial 85th-minute penalty to Swindon, which Paul Bodin duly fired home.


Bolton 4 Reading 3

Another seven goal thriller ? but this time the comeback was completed. Reading went 2-0 up after 12 minutes and looked to be cruising when they were awarded a penalty after 34 minutes. Stuart Lovell missed it, and the match turned. Bolton piled on the pressure but Reading held on until the 75th minute when Owen Coyle pulled one back. Fabian de Fraitas made it 2-2 to send the game to extra-time and Bolton made it 4-2. A late goal for Reading hinted at yet another twist but Bolton held on.

Bristol City 0 Hull City 12008

Bristol City 0 Hull City 1

At the age of 39, most people thought local hero Dean Windass (pictured) wouldn’t even get on the pitch for the biggest game in Hull’s recent history. The fat thug-a-like had other ideas though, answering his critics with a Roy of the Rovers-style volley from the edge of the box which proved the winner in a tight game.





Charlton 4 Sunderland 4

BBM was drunk when we watched this one but it still ranks as one of the best matches we’ve ever seen. In a match that swung both ways more times than David Bowie, Sunderland fan Clive Mendonca scored a hat-trick for Charlton as the game went to 3-3 at full-time to 4-4 after extra-time. An epic penalty shoot-out followed with Charlton winning 7-6.

Blackpool 3-2 Cardiff2010

Blackpool 3 Cardiff 2

The most memorable opening 45 minutes in play-off history. Blackpool fought back from a goal down twice before finally taking the lead in first-half injury time to make it 3-2 at the break. A similar goalfest seemed inevitable in the second half but by then both sides had knackered themselves out and Blackpool somehow managed to hold out.