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It's either us or Palace

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Michael Gray | 12:07 UK time, Friday, 30 April 2010

I've played more than 500 games in my career, but I can't think of any bigger than Sheffield Wednesday's relegation decider with Crystal Palace on Sunday.

The stakes could not be higher: if we win, we stay in the Championship; if we don't, Palace stay up. Either way, one set of fans, staff and players will be elated while the other will be facing up to life in League One next season.

To say it's been a rollercoaster of emotions and feelings in the past week barely comes close to describing the last few days.

Wednesday's fans celebrate a goal during the recent derby gameOur fans have stuck with us all season and we will do all we can to repay them

We went to Cardiff last Saturday needing a win to guarantee that we would still be in with a shout of survival on the last day. We were 1-0 up, then 2-1 down but came back to 2-2 before Jay Boothroyd grabbed a winner for Cardiff.

The defeat meant we were relying on results elsewhere to keep us in with a chance and it was a crushing feeling. We played well at times but just switched off defensively too often. The players took it really hard and we were all devastated afterwards.

You could see the pain on the fans' faces too and we really felt for them. It's not a nice feeling when you're staring down the barrel of relegation and once we saw the other results on the day we knew that we would be down if Crystal Palace were to beat West Brom on Monday. Knowing that our fate wasn't in our own hands at that point was horrible.

Our gaffer, Alan Irvine, went down to watch the game live, which must have been weird for him, especially as he used to play for Palace. But that's his job and he needed to know exactly what we would be up against this Sunday.

Most of our players watched the game on TV but I had the strange experience of getting updated via BBC Radio 5 live. I had previously committed to doing a radio show with Mark Clemmit and Mark Chapman so I couldn't see the game but they kept giving me updates and asking for my reaction.

It was odd finding out that way and West Brom seemed to have loads of chances on goal but I was massively relieved at the final whistle because the 1-1 draw meant we still have one last chance to stay up.

All of our players were delighted to get that opportunity and we're determined not to let this chance go. There was a buzz about the training ground on Tuesday but we were quickly told by the gaffer that it was vital to focus all our energy on that final game and not repeat the mistakes that were made at Cardiff. We will need to be fully prepared for the game because our whole season rides on this last match.

I have had a long career but I've never known a game like this. There was one season at Sunderland when I was only about 19 when we could have gone down to the third tier on the last day of the season. We played Notts County on the last day of the 1992-93 season and even though we lost 3-1 we eventually stayed up by just one point.

Shaun Derry shows his disappointmentCrystal Palace missed the chance to secure their Championship status on Monday

I said then that I never wanted to be in that situation again but this match on Sunday is different in that both of the teams that could go down are facing each other on the same pitch. You usually expect to have results elsewhere affecting your fate in this situation but there is none of that in this game - it's either us or Palace.

After Monday's result at Palace we sold more than 7,000 home tickets in less than 24 hours and the match was completely sold out five days before the game. That just shows how big a club Sheffield Wednesday are.

Our supporters have stuck with us all through this difficult season and we will do everything we can now to repay their commitment with the result that everyone here wants on Sunday.

Sheffield Wednesday command a support which is of Premier League stature, never mind the Championship. The fans don't deserve to see the club in the third tier and nobody at Hillsborough wants that to happen.

We have had some big crowds this season and there will probably be about 36,000 at Hillsborough on Sunday, while the game is also live on BBC One/BBC HD from 1240 BST.

As a player, appearing in a game like this should be an occasion to relish. The pressure will be on but we are confident that we can deliver. We have some good players and experienced characters but we will all have to draw on everything that we have to make sure we get the right result.

When it comes down to it, the whole season rests on this last 90 minutes of football and we are all prepared to do what is necessary for this club. Hopefully we can finish the game looking forward to another season in the Championship.


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