Saturday evening will see the final team join Norwich in the Championship next season via the nerve jangling play-offs, and one of Swindon or Millwall will, like the Canaries, be back within touching distance of the Premier League once more.
But for Paul Lambert, exiting the division via the top two is the most preferable option and when quizzed about his thoughts on the play-offs his response was simple. “I’m glad we’re not in it, put it like that.”
However, after Saturday’s triumph for unfashionable Blackpool when they secured top flight status with a masterplan put together by traditional ‘joker in the pack’ Ian Holloway, Tangerines fans would argue otherwise.
Holloway sneaked his side into sixth place on the last day of the season, then waved away the might of Nottingham Forest and Cardiff with no fear whatsoever.
But the likeable Bristolian offered a dose of reality for the season ahead in the big time when insisting that they will be “the team from the council estate next season.”
This Saturday’s Wembley showdown offers different circumstances but credit where credit’s due, both teams have had excellent seasons and the Robins and Lions did, of course, take points off City during the run-in.
And Lambert can see the advantage of squeezing yourself into sixth spot and getting that chance to go up via the back door. “If you’re in sixth place and you win it, you would be overjoyed and think that they are the best thing ever.”
Even the man who steered the Canaries back into the Championship at the first time of asking would not refuse promotion number two if offered it via the lottery that is the play-offs next season.
He is also well aware of the other side of the coin, however, being boss of a Wycombe side that lost over two legs in the League Two semi-final to Stockport County in 2008. “I have been beaten in the semis with Wycombe and it was a horrible feeling that’s for sure,” the Scot said recently.
But the Canary boss can see both sides of Saturday’s ‘argument’ between Millwall and Swindon and he has no doubts the play-offs bring about some tough emotions. “It can work both ways; if you finish in third place and you lose, you are gutted. But for the teams in the other three positions, it can be a great experience.”
Whatever Saturday brings for Kenny Jackett and Danny Wilson, there will be one man watching with keen interest as thoughts turn to 2010/11.
But don’t expect Lambert to make any bold predictions on who will be joining the Norfolk side in the second tier. “Once they are over that line, it is in the lap of the gods.”
Tom Haylett, Toby Newton.