NINETY minutes to define a season seems a bit harsh.
Failure in one game could confine a club to another season in the same division, while for the victors the summer is theirs to enjoy and dream of the new places they will be visiting next season, proving themselves at a new level.
But whether or not it seems a bit off that a club who finished sixth could be playing at the next level level over the club who finished third, the play-offs are the football romantics’ dream.
They are a cup final in themselves, and you could even argue that you take more out of winning a play-off final than you do winning the FA Cup for example.
Sure, there is the prestige of lifting the world’s most famous football trophy but afterwards, what do you really take from it? Other than the ‘we do care about it, honest’ Community Shield fixture in August, it’s just something that a few suits and top hats will see in the Directors’ Lounge or maybe in the club’s reception.
But winning the play-off final affects the club day-to-day. Take Dons for example. Next season, they could be playing against Chesterfield if they are to remain in League One, or they could be facing (if relegated) Wolves, West Ham or Wigan who are currently two divisions higher.
Television rights money will leap up, giving Karl Robinson more clout in the transfer market; attendances should go up with a higher calibre of club visiting stadium:mk week on week; even the badges on the players’ sleeves change with a new division.
The stakes for a Football League club couldn’t be higher. So for the sake the sleepless night before, the jitters on the ride to the ground, the most agonising 90 minutes any fan could take, the rewards are worth the risk.
Having experienced promotion with Dons before, I know how great going up feels though that was going up as champions, the best in the division. We weren’t left hanging on for days awaiting the game - it was wrapped up with a few games remaining.
But the play-off final, should they get there, will be the pinacle in Dons’ short history and regardless of whether you think they’d be better off staying in League One for another year, the occasion will undoubtedly get the better of all of us, and only a place in the Championship will satisfy. Losing out will feel worse than a defeat to even your bitterest of rivals.
And that just doesn’t bear thinking about.