'God you're in a daze' - Leeds United can end 'deathly quiet' nightmare to bank £140m FFP boost

"It's the way to go up, but it's not the way to lose."

You can still hear the pain in Kevin Blackwell's voice as the former Leeds United boss utters those words. Blackwell was the last man to take Leeds to a Championship play-off final and, understandably, wishes the Whites 'all the best' following the heartbreak of 2006.

"The extremes are massive," the 65-year-old tells Leeds Live. "To put your season into one game and knowing what the prize at the end of it is...it's colossal."

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The current crop at least know they have already had better preparations than their predecessors in 2006 - and that is before you even mention the fact that Blackwell had to talk himself out of jury service before the final. Where do you even start? Shaun Derry and Rob Hulse had to play through the pain barrier. Leeds lost Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell to suspension, following the pair's red cards in the semi-final win at Preston North End, while captain Paul Butler had barely trained before the final after recovering from a calf injury. "It killed us," Blackwell admits.

Rather than making a like-for-like change to a back four that kept a clean sheet at Deepdale, Blackwell instead decided to recall Butler to partner Sean Gregan and Matt Kilgallon was pushed out to left-back.

"You start thinking to yourself, 'Why are we doing this?'" Kilgallon tells Leeds Live. "Obviously we had to, but we didn't go in with the team that got through the play-offs.

"Preston were a better team than Watford, really. Everyone was talking about Preston. They had barely been beaten at home all season - it was a crazy record - and we went there and won 2-0."

That mattered for little, though, less than a fortnight later in the last play-off final held at the Millennium Stadium. Watford players were purposefully vocal in the tunnel - determined to show Leeds they were confident - and Jay DeMerit headed the Hornets in front midway through the first half. An own goal from Neil Sullivan and a Darius Henderson penalty sealed the win in the second half, but the game had long got away from Leeds by then.

"We didn't perform on the day," Kilgallon sighs. "That's for sure. The game was over in the first half. You can get players who freeze a little bit and you look at them and think, 'God, you're in a daze here. Come on.'

"I can remember just going back on the bus afterwards. Some people had brought their dads back or their partners and everyone just sat in silence. That's when it hits you and you go, 'Oh God. It's another year in the Championship.'

"It's a really tough league. Saturday, Tuesday. Sunday, Wednesday. Every week. That's when you realise you're not going to Old Trafford or the Emirates. You had another slog ahead."

Slog was an understatement. Blackwell immediately reported for jury service and was 'trying to listen to what was going on while thinking about the tactics, players and injuries'. The Leeds manager attempted to pick up a group who were left 'deathly quiet' at the Millennium Stadium, but that defeat against Watford ended up proving one of his final games in charge after 'bust' Leeds struggled to shake off the hangover the following season.

"Leeds will always be in my heart," Blackwell says. "Most of my family are season ticket holders at Leeds so when I became manager, they could not believe it.

"You know you've got some of the best fans that are following you all over the country. You wanted it for them. Not getting Leeds up that day may be the lowest point of my football career."

Leeds went on to be relegated to League One after entering voluntary administration. The Whites would spend 16 years outside the Premier League before finally returning to the top-flight in 2020. Now, Leeds are looking to get back there once more following a painful demotion last year.

Clearly, there is an awful lot riding on this game. Deloitte, for one, estimates that the winners will secure at least £140m in revenue over the next three seasons.

However, rather than being burdened by that, or the weight of history, Kilgallon is backing Daniel Farke's team to finally end the club's play-off final curse under the arch.

"I think Leeds will do it," he adds. "After watching them at home against Norwich, they were back and they were deadly. It could have been 8-0 or 9-0 and I'm being serious. It was that much of a battering.

"What a great way to go up at Wembley. They could go down in history and always be remembered at a massive club. It's fantastic for them and they have got the players and manager to do it."