THE play-off system has not been too kind to Lee Clark or Birmingham City in recent years.
Clark, who served his managerial apprenticeship at Huddersfield Town after a coaching spell at Norwich City, does not have fond memories of the end-of -season shoot-out.
In 2010, the former Newcastle United, Sunderland and Fulham midfielder guided the Terriers to the League One play-off semi-finals where they were beaten over two legs by Millwall before going one step further a year later, losing out 3-0 to Peterborough United in the final at Old Trafford.
At Huddersfield, Clark created history by guiding the West Yorkshire outfit to a domestic league record 43-game unbeaten run. Their record read 25 victories and 18 draws.
The Blues also suffered play-off heartache last season as Blackpool dashed their promotion hopes at the semi-final stage.
Following a hectic summer at St Andrew’s, Clark, who was appointed the Birmingham manager in June, is hoping to lead the club back into the Premier League through the automatic route.
But despite being one of the bookies’ favourites to go up, the Blues got off to an inauspicious start over the weekend, drawing 1-1 with Championship new boys Charlton Athletic.
Substitute Nikola Zigic rescued Birmingham a point in the last-minute and Clark is demanding his side up their performance level.
“Obviously there’s lots to work on, in terms of general performance,” he said. “I’m not silly, and the players certainly aren’t.
“We know we were disappointed with that [the Charlton showing]. But we finished the game on a high and we can take that positivity into Tuesday and obviously look at how we can be better.
“It was not our most fluent performance. Some of our players were not exploding. These things happen in the early part of the season.
“It is credit to them that they showed great character to come back from what you were thinking was going to be a defeat when you are in injury time and a goal down to snatch a point.”
One of Clark’s top performers at Birmingham is Jack Butland, who has been linked with a £7.5 million switch to Liverpool. The 19-year-old, who became England’s youngest-ever goalkeeper when he made his debut against Italy last week, was team Great Britain’s first-choice goalkeeper during the Olympics.
Butland earned rave reviews on loan at Cheltenham Town last season and his impressive displays have attracted the attention of several top-flight sides.
But Clark insists the highly-rated Butland, who went to Euro 2012 with England, is staying put and says he has no plans to sell the young shot-stopper or promising winger Nathan Redmond.
“We’ve got no intentions of letting the young players go,” Clark said.
Butland, who made his Birmingham debut on Saturday, has revealed he is in no rush to leave the club.
“There is nothing more important for me at the moment than staying put and playing games,” he said.
“I’m still only 19 and there is no rush. I don’t know how many 19-year-olds are playing in the Championship - there are certainly not many in the Premier League.
“I know I have the chance to play games here and that’s important. Hopefully it will keep me in the England set-up.
“If I was to move and I wasn’t getting games, it would hit my chances with the international side.”