Paul Peschisolido was part of the Derby County team to last do what this season’s Rams are aiming to achieve against Aston Villa on Bank Holiday Monday – secure promotion to the Premier League at Wembley Stadium.
On May 28th 2007, Derby stepped out at Wembley Stadium to face West Bromwich Albion in the Play-Off Final.
Stephen Pearson scored the only goal of the game to lift the Rams back into the top tier.
After starting just three games that league campaign and not being involved in the matchday squad for either of the semi-final legs against Southampton, Peschisolido was named in the starting XI on that day by Billy Davies.
It wasn’t a shock for him, but to many other it was – especially as in the preparations he pulled up with an ‘injury’.
“I was not at all surprised to be starting,” he recalled when speaking to RamsTV last season. “I wasn’t starting that many games that season, I was more used as the substitute and I was starting to get disillusioned.
“I thought ‘what’s going on here? Some games he uses me, some games he doesn’t’. But the manager pulled me a couple of weeks prior and he organised a trip for us to go to Ashby-de-la-Zouch to do some training.
“He said to me: ‘you’ll be playing in the final at Wembley’. I hadn’t been starting so I said ‘pardon?’ and he repeated it and said: ‘but what you have to do is next time we have a training session you are going to pull your groin and I want you to do nothing for the first seven days. Tell everyone including the players and staff, everybody that you have pulled your groin. I don’t want anyone to know that you are playing this game’.”
He continued: “So I go to training, say I've pulled my groin and I’m telling the physio my groin is wrong and he is telling me it’s not really and wondering what was wrong with me.
“So, I faked injury for that week and went into gradual training after that. I’m thinking whether this is a double bluff and if the reporters don’t think I’m fit, and he doesn’t play me then there won’t be any of that added pressure.
“But it wasn’t, and he started me that game. Only the two of us knew. Billy had some really strange, bizarre ways of dealing with things, maybe he was trying to find out if there was a mole. I don’t know.”
In the opening ten minutes at Wembley, Peschisolido had a great opportunity to give the Rams the lead when he went one-on-one with Dean Kiely but his low effort was scooped up by the Baggies’ keeper.
Looking back, he said it was a shot he didn’t mind missing.
“I was over the moon, I was delighted to be playing - until I missed the chance after about ten minutes,” said the former forward.
“But I still maintain that had I scored that against West Brom then we might not have gone on to win that game because they started to put some serious pressure on towards the end. It was a great day.”
It has been a season full of excitement in Frank Lampard’s first year in manager as he has guided the Rams back to Wembley. There is one last hurdle to overcome, and Peschiolido believes, having done it, the best way to achieve the Premier League goal is through the Play-Offs.
He said: “There is no better way of getting promoted. If you can guarantee getting promoted to the Premier League through the play-offs, you would take it all day long.”