Palace boss Ian Holloway says his players are ready to play their part in “a purists’ game” when the Eagles take on Watford in the Championship Play-Off Final.
The two sides meet at Wembley on Monday with a place in the Premier League and a £120m jackpot up for grabs.
For Holloway, the fixture will be his third Championship Play-Off Final in four years, after leading Blackpool to the Premier League in 2010, before losing to West Ham in last season’s final. But the gaffer says he has not spoken to his players about the emotional impact of winning or losing the Wembley showpiece.
Holloway said: “I’ve just spoke about who we are up against, what they do and how they do it, what we’ve got to do to try and stop that and what we’ve got to do to try and overcome that. That’s going to be tough but that’s all we’ve been focusing on.
“We’re taking on Watford who are a fantastic team. Whatever they want to do and how they do it we’ve got to try and stop them. Hopefully it will be a close, good game.
“You can never tell how anybody is going to react to walking out at Wembley. But you can do certain things and implement them to make sure the lads are accustomed to it and get used to it and see it before the day we go to play there. I think that makes a huge difference so we’ll be doing that.”
Palace’s preparations have been a stark contrast to Watford’s, who went on a training camp in Marbella ahead of the bank holiday Monday match.
“You’ll have to ask them why they went away,” Holloway said. “I wouldn’t dream of doing it myself. We’ve got lots to do, we’ve got to organise things, get things sorted so the lads can work on what’s important and that’s their performance. We’ve managed to do all of that now and hopefully we can get on with what we need to.
“The most important thing is the performance. It’s a wonderful day for everybody, but we have to perform. We hold everybody’s hopes and dreams in our hands so we have to make sure we perform. I’ve luckily done this a few times and I think we’ve adopted the way we did it before (at Blackpool) and I think it will work.”
Holloway reserved special praise for his opposite number on Monday, Gianfranco Zola, calling the former Chelsea striker “a genius” for getting Watford’s array of loanees to work together.
He added: “He’s a wonderful man, an absolutely fantastic man. He’s got dignity, he carries himself in that way and what a brilliant player. His team plays in his manner and that’s why I know it will be a great game, it will be a fair game, it will be a well-fought game, it will be a purists’ game. Hopefully we can go there and do what we need to do to make it that good.”
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