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Matt Holland's Blog 37

1 May 2013

There's nothing like a bit of final day drama to get the juices flowing, and I won't know which way to look as the climax of this season's npower Championship takes its final twist and turn this Saturday.

Anything and everything could happen, but then again, that's been the story of whole season hasn't it?

Up at the top it's a straight shoot-out between Hull City and Watford - two sides with different styles and philosophies - but this weekend the team that prevails will be the one which handles their nerves the best. It won't be about their skill or quality - it will come down to a test of the team's collective character and mental resolve.

Will they bottle it? Or rise to the challenge?

I remember being in Watford's position with Ipswich Town a few years back, knowing that if we won and Manchester City lost, we'd go up automatically.

Early in the second half we were winning and it was obvious City were trailing because our fans were having a party in the stands. We didn't need to ask the bench for an update.

Then, all of a sudden, the singing stopped and everything went eerily quiet. All we could hear were murmurs around the stadium, and that told us all we needed to know. Man City had turned their game around and were going up instead of us.

There's a lot to admire about both promotion contenders.

I think Matej Vydra and Troy Deeney have been excellent up front for the Hornets, and, as a side, Watford have played some lovely football. 

On the flip side, Hull City have shown resilience and determination to grind out wins against the odds. They haven't been as thrilling to watch, but their attitude and organisation has been commendable. I wish them both the best of luck.

Down at the bottom it's curtains for Wolverhampton Wanderers. I know they have an outside chance of survival mathematically, but it's not going to happen. They're down.

Trying to analyse why they've fallen from grace so quickly would take me all day, and fill several pages, but it's clear they've made lots of decisions that haven't worked out.

Removing Mick McCarthy from his position, not having a plan B ready when Alan Curbishley changed his mind over taking the job, entrusting the role with Terry O'Connor, selling their best players Matt Jarvis and Steven Fletcher, appointing left-field choice Stale Solbakken, and then choosing Dean Saunders to replace him; all choices that Wolves might not make if they had their time again.

Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Man City have all dropped down to npower League 1 in recent times, and managed to bounce back to a certain degree - and Wolves will do the same. They just have to start afresh, and open a new chapter in their history.

The players must also hold their hands up and admit they didn't do their jobs well. Talent-wise they should never be in the position they are.

Why have they been so bad? It's impossible to nail one reason but the negative atmosphere inside Molineux - which is understandable - can't have helped.

When fans are edgy and unhappy, the confidence can drain away from any professional footballer incredibly fast. Ebullient players begin to hide, not wanting the ball, they stay where they are instead of making a run, and they tighten up because they don't want to be the one that makes a mistake.

You can't play football and expect to win when most of your side has that nervous mentality. As experienced professionals they should have been mentally tougher, but I do understand why they lost belief.

The race everyone wants to lose, for the third relegation spot, will also come to a dramatic conclusion on Saturday.

Whoever joins Wolves and Bristol City in the relegation zone will feel hard done by and heartbroken. No one has ever gone down with this many points.

Barnsley, Peterborough United, Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall and Huddersfield Town have all had decent seasons. The effort and strength of character they've all displayed in recent weeks has been outstanding. None of them, in my opinion, deserves the drop.

Saturday will be cruel to one of them. It's going to be one heck of a nervy afternoon.

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