IAN Holloway believes the play-off line-up has never been stronger.
Cardiff take on West Ham tonight in the semi-final first leg, with Pool hosting Birmingham tomorrow.
And the Seasiders boss told journalists at a packed press conference he can’t wait to get going, even though it will be tougher than ever.
He said: “I am totally excited. It is an absolute honour and a joy to be involved in what I think could be one of the best Championship play-off fights of all time.
“We have done brilliantly to get there and let’s see what happens next.
“Someone has to win it and why can’t it be us? I know we have to be at our maximum to do it but the boys are looking in fantastic shape.
“I don’t know if there has ever been a better play-off. Let’s hope it lives up to its billing amd there are a lot of goals. That’s what we’ll be trying to do again – outscore the opposition and win.
“Perhaps we are not the laughing stock we used to be, so maybe people won’t take us so lightly this time. But I still think most will have us down as rank outsiders.
“West Ham are a huge club. Cardiff have got massive expectations and have already got to a cup final this season (the Carling Cup). Birmingham have been a Premier League side for years and want to get back there.
“So all four of us are desperate to do it and may the best team win – it is going to be fantastic.”
Roman Bednar played 70 minutes of the Lancashire Senior Cup tie against Manchester United on Tuesday and has been added to the squad for tomorrow’s game, though he is unlikely to make the final 16.
Other than Craig Cathcart, Holloway has a fully fit squad to try to get the better of a Birmingham team that pipped Pool to fourth spot.
He added: “Over the 46 games, Birmingham finished one point better than us so well done to them.
“Chris Hughton is a manager and a person I really like, and he has bounced back brilliantly from losing a job at Newcastle he really didn’t deserve to lose.
“He has kept them going throughout all their financial problems. He lost a lot of players but still got them to the play-offs, so how well has he done?
“Let’s just hope the result is decided by someone being the better team or by a great piece of skill, rather than a terrible decision. That really would be awful.”
Striker Nikola Zigic, Birmingham’s main injury doubt, has been passed fit and is expected to start up front alongside Marvin King.
Kick off at Bloomfield Road tomorrow is 7.45pm.
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