But the play-offs have also been responsible for the most disappointing night of my career. Three years ago we were by far the best team in the Championship. We went for every game, we reached the FA Cup and League Cup semi-finals, and the play-off final. And we finished the season with nothing after losing all three ties.
We had arranged for the whole club, players and staff, to stay in Cardiff after the play-off final with Wolves because of the traffic problems getting away. It was an awful night. Kevin McCabe, the plc chairman, made a speech about the future, trying to lift spirits, but none of us wanted to be there, we all wanted to be at home. So it was nice to go up automatically this year.
I think the match will be very close. Leeds have the experienced players, men who have played under pressure situations, but Watford are quite capable of beating anybody on their day, including Premiership teams.
There will be an extra edge for some at Watford. Aidy Boothroyd was a coach at Elland Road last season and Matthew Spring and Marlon King have played for Leeds. King, in particular, will want to prove a few things - he didn't enjoy his loan spell at Leeds and left under a cloud.
From a football point of view it will be easier for us to travel the 30 minutes to Leeds if they come up, and we'd get two great Yorkshire derbies. But I think our fans will want to see Watford win. If Leeds win, Blades fans will probably blame me. They'll say it's my fault because I had Kevin Blackwell under me for 16, 17 years - through all those play-offs - and he must have picked up a few tips.
2. I need a new PR man and barrister
I spoke to Aidy in the week. Thinking about that brawl he started when he held on to the ball against Palace I said if he wants any advice on how to keep his temper on the bench he could give me a ring any time. I suppose it shows the pressure we're all under when someone as calm and placid as Aidy is, can flip like that.
I'd like to know who his barrister and PR man are. If I'd have done what he did I'd have been on the front pages of every tabloid, not just the back. And the Football Association wouldn't have just fined me, they'd have had me locked up in Dartmoor. Aidy didn't even get charged.
3. A suit and tie might keep me out of trouble
I thought I had a very fair hearing in Manchester on Thursday, when the Football Association considered two charges they had brought against me. I didn't think I should have been charged at all for making a gesture at the Norwich City bench, after they didn't shake hands with me. In the end it's cost me a £750 fine but I think the disciplinary commission understood my feelings in the circumstances.
For my sending-off against Leeds I was fined £1,000 plus a six-match touchline ban, four of them suspended. While I'm disappointed to miss out on the opening day of the biggest challenge of my life I thought the punishment was fair. I had asked for a personal hearing on both cases because it's nice to be able to tell people the background to an incident, how I saw the whole thing, why, for example, I was shouting during the Leeds match. The commission were very understanding.
Now I've got to think about next season and how to adjust for the Premiership where every camera in the world is on you and all the media are waiting for that slip up to make a story of it. I've a few ideas. I'm going to wear a suit and tie on the touchline for the first time, that might help me be more restrained. And maybe I'll move the dug-outs 100 yards from the touchline.
While I'm banned I'll sit in the directors' box. I'll need some link to the dug-out so I'm going to give Sam Allardyce a call. He's the man when it comes to technology.
4. Henry made the wrong decision
Congratulations to Arsenal on persuading Thierry Henry to re-sign but personally I think he should have gone overseas - and my defenders all agree with me. But perhaps Arsène Wenger will feel sorry for us and give him a rest when we play Arsenal.
Looking back at the final, a lot was said about Jens Lehmann's sending-off and what the ref should have done. I bet if you asked our Premiership refs possibly half of them would have done the same, and the other half would have played advantage, given Barcelona the goal, and possibly Lehmann a yellow card.
- More about:
- Cardiff City Fc
- Fc Barcelona
- Jens Lehmann
- Sam Allardyce
- The Carling Cup
- Thierry Henry
- Watford Fc
- Wolverhampton Wanderers