Championship play-off final: Huddersfield Town v Nottingham Forest

by Steven Smith
5 minutes read
Split picture of Huddersfield's Danel Sinani (L) and Nottingham Forest's Ryan Yates
Huddersfield and Nottingham Forest have met three times already this season, with the Terriers winning once and Forest the other two – including their FA Cup fifth-round tie

Nottingham Forest midfielder Ryan Yates says he will not “overthink” what it will mean to win Sunday’s Championship play-off final against Huddersfield.

Nottingham-born Yates is looking to help the Reds end a 23-year absence from the Premier League.

The Wembley final is also the most valuable game in football, said to be worth at least £170m to the winner.

“I’ve tried not to think about it too munch,” he said. “It’s a massive occasion we have to thrive in”.

Sports business analysts Deloitte estimate Sunday’s victors can expect those riches over the next three seasons if the club goes down after just one top-flight campaign.

A solitary season in the Premier League is said to be worth a minimum of £90m in broadcast income, with parachute payments of about £80m – spread over two seasons – if the promoted club come straight down.

If relegation is avoided in that first season, promotion is then forecast to be worth about £300m over five years.

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Yates said the financial spoils of victory are “outside distractions” that he has tried to block out.

“We have had 46 games, or even more now, so you don’t want to overthink what is another game,” he said.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do is play for Forest in the Premier League, but you have to then put in the steps, the process to go and make that happen. That’s focusing on improving every single day and not taking anything for granted.

“Huddersfield are a really strong outfit, they finished above us in the league and that shows the strength they have as a team. All we are focused on, honestly, is trying to beat them.”

‘Mentality and character’

While Huddersfield’s rise has not been as stark as Forest’s this season – the Reds went from bottom of the table after eight games to their first ever play-off final – their turnaround under boss Carlos Corberan has still been remarkable.

The Terriers finished 20th in the Championship last season but have confounded many expectations to finish third and reach Wembley.

Corberan says he had confidence in his team from pre-season.

“I had the feeling I had a squad with players I believed in a lot,” he said. “This group have a good mentality and character. I expected us to be competitive.

“We have not always been able to be perfect for 90 minutes of games but we have always been in games.”

The Spaniard, who worked with Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds before taking the Town job in July 2020, believes his side have shown through the season they are capable of coping with pressure moments.

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“It will be important who can handle the pressure. You need to be able to relax to perform well,” he said.

“It’s something we always try to manage with the players between self-confidence and self-demand.

“I won’t manage the situation in a different way. During all the year the team has been going to the pitch knowing it is a competitive game and trying to to win.

“The consequences of Sunday’s game are bigger but to get here, you have played many games that you have needed to win.

“If now I have to teach the players how to manage the pressure, I am late. So for me it is a habit the players already need to have.”

Team news

Terriers boss Corberan has no new injury concerns and winger Sorba Thomas could come into the starting XI after returning from a knee injury in the semi-final second leg win over Luton Town.

Forest boss Cooper is in a similar position, with Keinan Davis in contention to start after coming off the bench to replace Sam Surridge in the second leg of their semi-final against Sheffield United.

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Match facts

  • Three of Huddersfield’s last four neutral appearances at Wembley have seen the match go to penalties, with the Terriers winning on penalties in the Championship play-off final in 2016-17 and the League One play-off final in 2011-12, but losing the EFL Trophy final shootout in 1993-94. The other game in this run saw them defeat Bristol Rovers 2-1 in the third-tier play-off final in 1994-95.
  • Huddersfield Town have reached their sixth EFL play-off final, winning promotion in four of their five previous finals. Indeed, only Blackpool (six) have won promotion more times via the EFL play-offs than the Terriers (four).
  • Huddersfield Town’s Carlos Corberan could become the first Spanish manager to lead a second-tier side to promotion to the top flight via the play-offs.
  • Nottingham Forest have reached an EFL play-off final for the first time in their history – with the Reds getting eliminated in each of their previous four semi-final ties (2002-03, 2006-07, 2009-10 and 2010-11).
  • Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper has taken part in the Championship play-offs in each of his three seasons in the division as a manager, reaching the play-off final for the second season in a row (lost 2-0 v Brentford with Swansea). The only manager to fail to win promotion in consecutive second-tier play-off finals is Brian Little with Leicester City (1991-92 and 1992-93).
  • Steve Cooper has won 59% of his 44 games in charge of Nottingham Forest (W26 D10 L8) – the best win ratio of any Forest manager since the club joined the Football League in 1892-93 (min. 15 games).

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