Middlesbrough defender Darragh Lenihan is refusing to get ahead of himself as he attempts to move a step closer to his childhood dream.
The 29-year-old Republic of Ireland international and his team-mates head into the first leg of their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final with Coventry on Sunday knowing they could be just three games away from the Premier League.
Head coach Michael Carrick has told his players that they cannot afford to look any further ahead than the 90 minutes at the Coventry Building Society Arena, but Lenihan is well aware of what is at stake.
Asked what it would mean to have the chance to play in the Premier League, he said: “It’s every kid’s dream. I haven’t played, personally, in the Premier League myself. A few of the lads in the team have.
“Personally for me, it would be exceptional, it would be great not only for the players, but for the town, for the fans.
“That’s what we do it for at the end of the day, but we’ll only be focusing on Coventry on Sunday.”
Boro, who finished fourth in the final table, one place and five points better off than Coventry, are looking to end a six-year exile from the top flight with either derby rivals Sunderland or Luton awaiting the winners at Wembley.
Former Manchester United midfielder Carrick played in Champions League, Europa League, FA and League Cup finals as well as title deciders during his trophy-laden spell at Old Trafford and, as a result, has huge experience of big games and how to prepare for them.
On the message the 41-year-old had been drilling into his players this week, Lenihan said: “It’s just another game, it’s just another game, just go and show what you can do, do what he’s asked in terms of tactics and what not, and go and enjoy it.
“That’s one thing he’s always said since day one. The first meeting, he just said, ‘enjoy the game, enjoy playing football, enjoy taking the ball and passing the ball’. That’s what we’ll try to do and see where it takes us.”
Carrick, who guided an injury-hit side to a 1-1 draw with the Sky Blues in their final regular-season fixture on Monday, was coy when asked if the likes of Dael Fry, Jonny Howson, Marcus Forss and Aaron Ramsey might return.
He said: “We’re just waiting. We’ll train tomorrow, so we’ll see what’s available. It’s one of those things: some boys aren’t fit, some boys are fit.
“It’s changing by the day in some ways, so we’ll just have to see what we’ve got tomorrow and go with it, and hopefully more come through than don’t.”
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