There’s been a real buzz around the city in the build-up to this weekend’s play-off final, and that’s been no different for Paul Simpson, his staff and squad as they prepare for one final big push on what is arguably the world’s biggest footballing stage.
“It’s been exciting, a great week,” he said. “If you can’t get up for a week like this then you’ve got serious problems.
“It was a great experience on Saturday, but I was absolutely shattered after it. It was a mentally and physically draining day with the way it went.
“I did celebrate on Saturday night, but I was ready for bed by about 9pm because it felt like a long day.”
“I’ve got to say, the staff over in the office in the East Stand have been absolutely magnificent this week,” he added. “Everybody has come in and they’re all pulling together and getting tickets sold.
“There’s been a backlog because of the early rush for them, and total credit has to go to them because they’ve been the stars for the last few days. They’ve been outstanding and a big thank you has to go to them.
“The players have also gone about the week the right way, we’ve had some good training days. We got them back in on Monday because I wanted them to come back down to earth and start thinking about football again.
“The celebration bit has gone, I wanted us to get the football bit right. We’ve dealt with all of the planning of tickets and travel, they’ll have a rest day on Thursday then we’ll be back in with the final bits of preparation before we go down to London.”
And that focus on being focused is exactly what helped the team to navigate its way through those difficult home and away legs.
“That’s why I wanted everything done during the early part of the week,” he told us. “Myself and Sarah McKnight sat down a couple of weeks ago and put some things in place because we knew there would be such a tight turnaround.
“We did it quietly and nobody else knew about it, it wasn’t a case of being arrogant thinking we were going to get there, but we had the conversations.
“Sarah put provisional things in place with a really clear plan of what was going to happen, and as I came back across the pitch after finishing my interviews on Saturday night, she was waiting and we sat in the dugout for five minutes to make sure I still wanted the plans as we’d discussed.
“She’s been brilliant sorting all of that, and all the players now know exactly what they’ve got. They’ve all bought the tickets they need, and they’ve been given them today [Wednesday] so they can give them out as they need to.
“When we come back in to train on Friday and Saturday it’s about football, and they all know that. They know what they need to do and where they want to be, so I think it’s important we’ve dealt with all of that, and we can now deal with the football side of it.”
And whether it’s classed as league game number 49 or a cup final, or whatever, the fact is that it’s a very big occasion with a potentially hugely positive outcome.
“It’s wonderful, it’s fantastic to be involved in it,” he agreed. “I know it’s difficult for supporters, and the travel has been a nightmare, which is the horrible part of these situations.
“Everybody looks at it as a money-making exercise, which is wrong, because it’s the fans who suffer. I hope we can get good numbers down, but I totally understand there are people who would love to be there, but can’t be there.
“I’m quite sure we’ll have a good following down there and I’m sure it’ll be the same for the people who watch it on TVs up here. We’ve got to make sure we go and play the game and not the occasion.
“We’ve got to enjoy the occasion, but we have to play the game. I remember my first experience at Wembley with Man City and I got so nervous about the day that I couldn’t enjoy it.
“I made a promise that if I ever got the chance to go back I had to enjoy it in case there was never another chance, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do.
“Results haven’t really gone my way when I’ve been at Wembley but I’ve made sure I’ve appreciated the experience and everything about the day.”