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Championship

Warnock's Play-Off prediction

The defender played for Aston Villa, Leeds United and Derby County, but what is he expecting from his former sides this weekend?

11 May 2019

It's a case of mixed emotions for Stephen Warnock this week.

Having played for and captained three of the four Clubs in this year's Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs, the former defender's loyalty is split going into the Semi-Final first legs.

Warnock wore the armband for Aston Villa, Leeds United and Derby County during his playing career, and says that as long as one of them wins promotion, he's happy.

He said: “When you look at the three teams, I spent the longest time at Villa but captained all of them at some point, so it’s not a nice situation! If West Brom went up, it would be the worst scenario because none of the teams I played for would have been promoted. It’s exciting though, to see some of my former Clubs in there.

“It’s an honour to be a captain anywhere, but to have captained Clubs like these is a great feeling. To have the trust of the manager is great but it comes with pressure, you’ve got to set standards in training every day and I tried to do that. I always enjoyed it because I enjoyed the pressure and felt that I could handle the responsibility.

“Villa were in the Premier League for so long, and it felt when I was coming to the end of my time there that they were flirting with relegation a bit. Leeds’ story has been well-documented but the new owner seems intent on doing things right, and has made a massive appointment in Marcelo Bielsa. We know about Derby too, who have invested in the squad and are in the mix with Frank Lampard.

"There are so many big Clubs in the Championship now, I think last season Rotherham United and maybe one or two others were the only sides not to have played in the Premier League and that just shows the standard these days."

Villa and West Bromwich Albion kick off the Championship Semi-Finals at 12:30pm on Saturday, and Warnock believes that while the visitors have experience on their side, the hosts will be too hot to handle.

“When you look at Villa defensively, they’re very strong," he added. They had plenty of clean sheets during that winning run and then the attack is full of goals too. West Brom have Jay Rodriguez and Dwight Gayle, but they concede goals. That’s where Villa will have to take advantage, they’ll have to be clinical as they have been lately.

"I do think Villa will have too much for West Brom, but West Brom have a lot of experienced players and it’s those types of players who often step up on occasions like these. It’s not only a chance to reach the Play-Off Final, it’s the chance to take the bragging rights again, and that adds even more pressure onto the game.

“Dean Smith has done a great job at Villa. When he started, they had a bit of a ropey patch and some people jumped to conclusions, but people need time. I believe he has the best squad in the Championship and the recruitment has been superb, the likes of Tyrone Mings have been superb.

"They’ve gone from strength to strength and arguably have the best player in the league too in Jack Grealish, he can create and score goals out of nowhere."

You can follow coverage of every Championship Play-Off game on Twitter (@EFL and @SkyBetChamp).


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