Jedinak's experience crucial to Villa's Championship playoff hopes

Aston Villa may be heading into the unknown of the English Championship playoffs but in Caltex Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak they have someone who knows all about winning Premier League promotion through this route.

Villa takes on Middlesbrough in a two-leg semi-final – starting away at the Riverside on Sunday at 2.15am (AEST) – for a spot in the Playoff final at Wembley at the end of May.

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If they can overcome Tony Pulis’ Boro, they’ll face the winner of the other semi between Fulham and Derby County for a spot in the Premier League, in what is considered the richest game in club football.

For Jedinak, it’s scenario he’s encountered before during his time at former club Crystal Palace.

The 33-year-old skippered Palace to promotion via the playoffs in 2013 with a win over Watford, and admits memories of that triumph have come flooding back this week.

"It can't be taken too lightly," Jedinak told Sky Sports about his experience of winning a play-off final.

"All I have to do is take myself back to that time and remember how it was with the first experience. I think if you haven't experienced that as a player, it will be nice to pass that knowledge on.

Mile Jedinak lifts the trophy after Palace's Playoff Final win in 2013.
Mile Jedinak lifts the trophy after Palace's Playoff Final win in 2013.

"I remember at the time we had a manager who had experienced that very recently and he passed on his knowledge to us.

"That was invaluable and I think, if we do get to that point, I think there's a few in this squad that have had those experiences before.

"It's going to be about who can control their nerve the most over the two legs and hopefully that will be us,” Jedinak added.

"It's going to be looking ahead. It's a one-off. It's who can hold their nerve on the day with the whole experience and the build-up and then produce a performance that deserves to make you go up.”

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It’s not just Jedinak’s playoff experience that will be crucial for Steve Bruce’s side.

Villa’s bearded warrior has been a key figure in their charge to the playoffs, playing four of the last five league games in the heart of defence.

In that period Villa has conceded just twice, while they appear to be peaking at the right time with just one defeat in their last five games.

And not only did they finish seven points ahead of Boro in the league but also went unbeaten against them in the regular season with a win (away) and a draw at Villa Park.

But Jedinak warned against complacency from his side, insisting previous history counts for nothing given what’s at stake.

"I remember the year we went up we didn't beat Watford in the league. We had a draw and a loss, so it goes out the window,” he admitted.

"You've just got to focus on that day. That 90 minutes, that 120 minutes or whatever it may be and you put all your efforts into that.

"You're not playing for three points - there's something greater at stake. I think when you put all those things together, that's why league form can go out the window."

After Sunday morning’s first leg, the return at Villa Park will be played on Wednesday morning (AEST).

The winner of both play-off ties then heads to Wembley Stadium on Monday 27 May (AEST) for a one-off shot at Premier League promotion.