Tommy Wright has experience of winning a final-day relegation decider as a player – now he wants to savour it as a manager.
A difficult season comes down to one final 90 minutes today with Kilmarnock needing to beat practically-relegated Hamilton Accies and hope Ross County lose at Motherwell to avoid a Premiership play-off final against Dundee.
The odds may look stacked against the East Ayrshire men on Survival Sunday but Rugby Park boss Wright knows issues can end up being settled in the dying seconds after his time with Newcastle United.
Kevin Keegan’s Toon travelled to Leicester City on the final day of the Second Division season in 1992 with their fate very much hanging in the balance.
Northern Irishman Wright was between the sticks and it looked like United would be safe when Gavin Peacock gave them a first-half lead at the now demolished Filbert Street.
However, Foxes skipper Steve Walsh grabbed a late equaliser for Leciester – only to put the ball throw his own two minutes later which sealed an incredible 2-1 win for the Magpies. Both goals were started from booming kicks by Wright.
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Memories are made of this and if Killie can somehow pull it out of the fire this afternoon, it might even better that dramatic, sunny day in the East Midlands for Wright.
He said: “I’ve not been involved in something like this as a manager – I’ve been in relegation battles but had unbelievable runs to get out of them.
“But as a player the most obvious one was when I was at Newcastle and we had to go to Leicester and get a result.
“We were 1-0 up and they equalised in the 90th minute then we scored in 92nd minute; that’s the only game where it has gone to the last day where you have a chance of staying up that I’ve experienced personally.
“This is a massive game. It’s our biggest game of the season. In football you don’t tend to look back too much, only forward. The rewards are high if we win and Motherwell get a result.
“I don’t think we’ve got enough points out of the performances we’ve had. We’ve scored goals and played well but we’ve somehow managed not to convert draws into wins and give away leads when we shouldn’t. But that’s where we are.”
Wright says the mood in the camp has been positive despite Killie having it all to do following Wednesday night’s 3-3 draw at home to St Mirren.
“Training’s been good,” he said. “The players have been lively and we’re just looking forward to the game but there’s never been a case where there’s been tension in the air since I’ve been here.
“We’re focused and we always felt we would have to come and win at Hamilton. Unfortunately it’s not the ideal position that we’re in as we need Motherwell to win; the draw doesn’t help us.”
Wright, who looks set to be without striker Nicke Kabamba, will be kept informed of events involving the Staggies at Fir Park.
He added: “We will look for updates. Due to the importance of the game, we need to know what’s happening. For example, if Ross County are three or four up, we might start planning for the play-off game and getting people off and ready for Thursday.
“In a one-off game, we have got to make sure we are aware and I will decide what information the players need on the back of that.”
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