NINETY six hours to go to their day of destiny.
Then ninety nervewracking minutes with the power to shape a football club’s history and individual careers
Yet Nick Montgomery, the Sheffield United midfielder, was in sanguine mood when he previewed this weekend’s League One play-off final with the region’s press yesterday
Yes, Montgomery conceded, Huddersfield Town will provide a stern test of his team’s Championship credentials.
But the man potentially charged with cutting the supply lines to Jordan Rhodes oozed a calm and confidence which, if replicated at Wembley, means Simon Grayson’s side will also endure an uncomfortable afternoon.
“The build-up has been a little bit different this year,” Montgomery, a veteran of two previous play-offs campaigns, said.
“This is the first time we’ve not been away for a bit of a break and so everything seems a little bit more relaxed.
“We’ve just treated it as an extra fortnight’s worth of training.”
The atmosphere inside the media suite at Shirecliffe, United’s state-of-the-art training complex, might have been remarkably composed.
Montgomery, though, conceded their meeting with a team which finished one place and nine points behind them in the final table is likely to be anything but.
United, edged back to third place during the closing stages of an eventful season, rediscovered their poise to overcome Stevenage at the semi-final stage.
But with their next opponents entering Saturday’s contest in impressive form - winning three and drawing one of their previous five outings - Danny Wilson’s squad must display similar levels of character - and more - to ensure the club’s drought in end-of-season knockout competition does not stretch to another year.
Stopping Rhodes, a striker who has scored 40 goals in Town colours this term, must be a priority.
“Jordan’s record speaks for itself,” said Montgomery. “It tells you that he’s the best striker in the league.
“So we don’t want to give him a sniff.
“But they’ve got other good players too, not just Jordan, and a good manager in Simon Grayson.
“We know they’ll be tough.But they know we’ll be tough and are a good team too.”
Montgomery, speaking earlier this week, conceded he wanted to end what has “probably been, from a personal perspective, my worst season” on a positive note.
“I’ve been here all of my career and I’ve seen the highs and the lows,” he continued.
“But this is a great club and I think the world of this place.”
*NICK Montgomery has drawn parallels between Sheffield’s United’s current crop of youngsters and the golden generation of 2006.
Together with Phil Jagielka and Michael Tonge, Montgomery was an instrumental part of the squad which 72 months ago was responsible for delivering top-flight football to Bramall Lane.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s League One play-off final with Huddersfield Town, the midfielder insisted the emergence of home-grown names such as Harry Maguire and Matthew Lowton had been a driving force behind the club’s success this season.
“It’s great to see the likes of Harry and Matty coming through,” Montgomery said.
“They’re all local lads and that’s vital for any club’s future.
“When I came through Jags and Tongey were doing the same thing and it helped that we grew up together here.”
Montgomery added: “I think we saved the club a fair bit of money and, with finances becoming even more important in the game, you need to produce your own players.
“The three of us are still great mates.”
How they compare
Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town boast three wins apiece from the previous six meetings between these two sides.
United have met Town 98 times in competitive action, with the South Yorkshire club triumphing on 26 occasions and 34 ending in draws.
The last 10 meetings between these two teams have produced twenty-five goals, an average of 2.5 per game.
United have won one and drawn three of their last five matches.
Town have won three and drawn one.
United boast a win percentage of 58 per cent in all competitions this season.
Town have won 45 per cent of their matches this term.
United finished one place and nine points ahead of Town in the final League One table.
United scored 92 goals in the league this season with 38 of those coming on the road.
Town scored 79 goals in the league this season, with 44 of those coming away from home.