Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ah, playoff time. Love them or loathe them, the playoffs are here to stay.

If you're on the fence about them then your thoughts may be shaped one way or the other come 5pm on Sunday evening.

I've always been pretty torn about them. Hate the Scottish ones, but love the English ones. Playoffs in the Scottish League seem pointless when you only have ten team leagues, although I am starting to warm to them.

My view has always been to just let the runners up go up and the second bottom team go down. They both deserve and have earned their fates. If that meant East Fife lost the chance to go up or were horribly relegated, then so be it.

Of course, that was my view before East Fife actually found themselves in a relegation playoff. Now I'm torn again, but I think deep down, I feel we should already be down.

But we're not. Them's the rules that we all knew when we started out on this long and horrible road last summer. We now have a second chance at life and we can only hope that each and every player grabs that opportunity with both hands and embraces it with all their might.

There is no doubt that the playoffs add a bit of excitement to what is sometimes an otherwise dreary end of the season and the games do throw up some cracking matches. Better cup ties than some cup ties.

Anyone who was at Bayview on Saturday will long remember the emotions they felt when they saw the ball leave Liam Gormley's foot and into the back of the Berwick net.

Speak to any Dunfermline fan, or Forfar one for that matter, about the emotions that were running through them last Saturday at East End Park in a truly remarkable match.

You don't get that in many League games and now we have the chance to enjoy two more.

Maybe the playoff buzz that the English ones generate are finally starting to catch on here in Scotland. Maybe I am starting to come round that they are a good idea and prevent a huge spate of meaningless matches at season end.

There is no doubt that there is still a long way to go before we'll be anything like what they have down south.

The ending to the Championship playoff semi between Leicester City and Watford was simply unreal.

I thought I'd seen it all at the end of the regular season with the League One game between Brentford and Doncaster when it came to dramatic endings, but that playoff game was even more stunning than that. It was simply one of those wow moments you're glad you saw and won't forget in a hurry.

Maybe not as dramatic, but equally as fantastic to watch, was the Blue Square Premier playoff between Newport Country and Wrexham, with County scoring two goals in the final five minutes to seal their place in the Football League after 25 years of heartbreak.

I've long had a soft spot for Newport County going back to my days swapping fanzines with their "Never Say Dai" one. I'm a member of their Supporters Trust and so very glad that they now have their place back where they belong.

So what will tonight and Sunday hold in store for fans of East Fife and Peterhead? One half will be joyous beyond belief, the others heartbroken.

We have fought so hard in recent weeks to be where we are tonight. It's been a hard season, with many more downs than ups, but the players deserve the credit for sticking with it and having us on the brink of staying up.

Without adding more pressure on them, it's imperative that we do. We can't afford to miss out on the gate money from Rangers and possibly Dunfermline games and we can't afford to return to the dregs of Scottish football that we fought so hard to escape from.

We don't have a great record in the playoffs but let's change that tonight. To the fans, I say support the team, no matter what, through 180 minutes and more if needed. To the players I say, do this for the fans, for the proud history of the Club, but most of all, do it for yourselves and prove ALL of your doubters wrong.

'Mon the Fife. Let's get this done together.

[This article first appeared in the East Fife programme 'The Bayview' on Wednesday 15th May 2013]

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