KIERAN O’REGAN would love to see one man celebrating victory at Old Trafford more than any other – Dean Hoyle.
The former Town player and now respected radio pundit is praying Lee Clark and his squad can finish the play-off job and get the club back into the Championship.
He believes it would be a fantastic boost for the area, for the players and management and most of all for the fans – No1 of whom is owner and chairman Hoyle.
With the big clash against Peterborough just three days away – and Town hoping to end a decade in the third tier of English football – O’Regan said: “I would be delighted for Dean if we can win, because he has put so much into it.
“It is no mean feat for anyone to be pouring money into a football club these days, but what Dean and his family have done is truly commendable.
“He is a supporter and, like all supporters, he is desperate to get the club into the Championship.
“I was really pleased for him when we won the semi-final in the penalty shoot-out, because he must have been through every emotion.
“He disappeared downstairs to the manager’s office during the penalties and I don’t blame him. He probably needed a stiff brandy – and nobody would have blamed him for that, either!”
The Cork-born 47-year-old played 199 matches for Town between 1988 and 1993 and was involved in the club’s first ever play-off campaign of 1991-92 when, coincidentally, they played Peterborough.
He has watched the club regularly for many years, being settled in the Holme Valley, and he’s hoping Sunday can deliver a big pay-off for the hordes who will travel ‘just over the hill’ for the final.
“Thousands of people are going over there for a great day out – but it will only be a great day if we win,” he explained.
“The job isn’t completed yet, we haven’t been promoted, so there is one big task left to do. It’s all about this last game of the season and it’s all about making the most of our last shot at it.
“This is a wonderful position to be in. I think everyone knows my feelings about the play-offs, which I have always felt were unfair in that one team can finish miles behind another in the regular season and still go up.
“I think there should be a certain amount of automatic promotion places and then that’s it. Town should certainly have gone straight up with 87 points in third place.
“As it is, though, we are in the play-off final and it’s important to go there, beat Peterborough and look forward to next season in the Championship.
“That would be great for the squad, because we have a good squad.
“There are players with experience and players with youthful exuberance – and the manager has got scope to play who and how he likes and to change it during games.
“You only need to look at the people he’s had on the bench recently to recognise the quality we’ve got – and I’m sure they will all be fully focused come Sunday’s match.
“Antony Kay, for instance, showed it perfectly. He hadn’t played for 12 matches when he was a surprise inclusion in the side at centre-back down at Bournemouth – and he played really well.
“I thought he was tremendous in the second leg as well, playing both in defence and midfield, and not only came up with a vital equalising goal but slotted away the winning penalty as well.”
O’Regan was Town’s penalty-taker in his day, and knows what it take to step up to the spot.
“I thought all our penalties against Bournemouth were excellent,” he said.
“Not many people would have thought Lee Novak would go up for the first one, but all credit to the lad, he showed lots of guts and stuck it away after Bournemouth had already scored.
“Ian Bennett then made a good save from Liam Feeney and that seemed to make some Bournemouth heads drop, especially when Anton Robinson smacked the next one against the bar after Danny Ward had scored for us.
“Kevin Kilbane made no mistake with his penalty, driving it in very confidently, and then Kay’s gave the keeper no chance.
“It was the perfect end to a match which had pretty much everything, the atmosphere was electric and the character of the team shone through.”
So what extra does O’Regan think Clark will want from his team in an effort to overcome Darren Ferguson’s men?
“First of all, he’s got some lovely selection ‘problems’ in that he’s got plenty of options – Kay or Jamie McCombe at centre-back? Does Lee Peltier play in midfield? Who does he go with up front? – and they are all positive questions with regard to his team,” said O’Regan.
“When he thinks about performance, I believe he’ll want the team to keep the ball better than against Bournemouth.
“They couldn’t give him any more in terms of passion, commitment and desire, but I’m sure he’ll be reminding them they can do better on the ball.
“It’s easy for anyone to say that, of course, and a whole lot different to be out there in the middle of a pressure situation – but I think Town will have the belief they can produce that additional quality and win the game.
“The manager will know what he wants, there’s no doubt about that, and we’ve got some very good players who will be ready to take the final hurdle.”
And the fans?
“They have been brilliant, and to see their faces after we got through against Bournemouth was just fantastic,” he said. “Let’s just hope everyone is celebrating again on Sunday.”