The Derby County squad that has moved onto the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Semi-Final is brimming with experience in these high-pressure situations. For those like Bradley Johnson, winning these big games are the moments they play for.
Johnson is a veteran of the play-offs, having been in the semi-final with the Rams two years ago, while he also earned promotion, alongside Cameron Jerome, with Norwich in 2015, as well as appearances in his career early on.
The Rams boast a side full of experience, with Tom Lawrence the only regular starter not to have been involved in the play-offs during his career.
Having already been there, Johnson believes the recipe for success in the play-offs is taking away the excitement that surrounds it and treating it as any other game.
The 31-year-old told RamsTV: “It’s about how you handle the day and how you handle the occasion.
“If you get caught up in the hype of it, it can take your mind off the game and that’s where you go wrong. You just have to keep calm and treat it as a normal game, which we have done this week, then it will take care of itself on the night.”
On Friday night the Rams will face Fulham under the lights at Pride Park Stadium before heading to Craven Cottage for the second-leg on Monday night.
There was a rejuvenated Derby side in the final weeks of the season, that saw Gary Rowett’s men pick up vital points against Cardiff City, Aston Villa and Barnsley.
A change in formation was the catalyst for the improved form to end the season, but Johnson insists that even when matches weren’t going their way the ethos of the team remained intact and the strong bond within the squad provides a winning quality.
“In my three years here, this is the best squad I’ve played under,” the midfielder said.
“The manager has come in and we have got the togetherness now, he has got a structure where each of us know what we are doing and we all know our jobs on the pitch. We are all just really enjoying our football.
“Going back to that Norwich side, we worked hard for each other, we had that belief in the team that we could beat anyone and I feel that we have that same belief here now.”
Recently, the versatile midfielder has been thriving in a holding role alongside Tom Huddlestone, and with slight changes something seemed to have just clicked for the whole squad.
“We are looking more of a threat with more attacking options and are looking more solid at the back,” he said.
“With me and Tom holding and the three behind us, we are looking more solid and we can let the forwards go and do their jobs.
“We have three or four different ways of playing. We don’t know how we will play on Friday night, the manager will do his homework on Fulham and choose a system that is best for us to play against them.”
For Johnson, however, the message is simple. The rest of the season goes out the window and they now have three games to earn their ultimate reward.
“I thrive on these big pressure games. The reward at the end of it is one of the best moments in football, there is no better feeling than going to Wembley and lifting the cup.
“We have got two games now and it’s whoever turns up and who wants it more on the night.
“I can sit here now and say we want to get to Wembley and we want to get promoted. It’s all about what we do now and we are confident going into the game.”