Cobblers defender Carlisle ready for the ‘ultimate’ pressure test

Clarke Carlisle believes the play-off final is the ultimate high-pressure game the sport of football has to offer.

And the centre-back, who experienced Wembley glory with Burnley in 2009, says being promoted in such a way generates a better feeling than winning a league championship.

The difference between league one and league two football at Sixfields next year is a substantial one.

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Some supporters have boiled it down to a simple comparison – the mighty Wolves, or league newcomers Newport County.

But there is much more to it than that. Carlisle is fully aware of the wide-reaching impact of the outcome of the play-off final and even more conscious of the role the players have in determining the club’s destiny.

“It is very hard to maintain a sense of focus for a game like this because you’ve played 48 games and then they all come down to the 49th one,” he said.

“It defines whether your season has been a success or a failure and it is a very high-pressure situation.

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“The impact of promotion or non-promotion is huge on us as players, not just in terms of our status or kudos or maybe financially, or for the football club for its stature, its growth, its future income and for jobs around the place.

“The level of academy player you can get coming through the doors changes, local businesses benefit and there is an increase in revenue for the club in commercial terms.

“The ramifications of winning this game are huge and so are those for failure. It’s a very high-pressure and far reaching 90 minutes and being able to compartmentalise it and stay focused on what you can affect is key.”

Carlisle admits the 2009 final, in which he played the full 90 minutes of Burnley’s 1-0 win over Sheffield United, passed him by in something of a blur.

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The actual playing of a Wembley final, it would seem, is something that is rarely savoured.

But the emotions afterwards, providing you are on the victorious side, would certainly appear to be one to behold.

“I would say you won’t play in a higher pressure game than a a play-off final,” said Carlisle. “I’ve been involved in a few promotions and a few relegations and the thing about relegation is it’s not a one-game scenario.

“There is a period of time where you’re psychologically preparing yourself for it. You’ve been down and around the bottom and you know it’s a possibility.

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“You almost have a grieving process before it actually happens and then when you are relegated it’s horrible but you’ve already done all the processing and run through all the permutations.

“When you get to a play-off game it’s almost tangible. It all rides on 90 minutes, your hopes, dreams, everything is on this one game. It’s disgusting. It’s the worst way to not get promoted and the only way to get promoted. It’s far better than winning the league because it’s the same principle – there is an element of preparation for it.

“It’s almost anti-climactic when you do get promoted. With a showpiece finale like Wembley, everyone is there to watch your defining moment.

“When it’s good it’s phenomenal and when it’s bad it’s the worst feeling ever.”

Here’s hoping it’s the former...