Iwelumo to weigh up options
By Adam Marshall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Chris Iwelumo admits the nerves will be jangling when Brighton take on Bristol City in Sunday's live Sky Sports Second Division play-off final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, but the talented striker could be going into the shop window.
The former Stoke City target man has cleared up his contractual situation and confirmed he will be a free agent on June 30, so much could depend on whether Albion are successful in their quest to reach the First Division.
And the man who forms one half of the dangerous partnership with Leon Knight has lifted the lid on their off-field friendship which has aided their hunt for goals.
"Obviously, I think I'm pretty lucky to have already experienced The Millennium Stadium before, with Stoke," Iwelumo told skysports.com.
"I've spoken to a few of the lads and can't even give them a bit of a warning. It's an overwhelming feeling.
"90 minutes and a higher division at stake, what both teams want very badly. We played 46 games to get to where we are today. There is so much pressure.
"I'm sure it'll be a cagey game for 20 minutes and then both teams will go hell for leather.
"The play-offs are okay, you could argue that the third-placed team should have just one game or go straight up, but that's what football is all about. You can't compare anything with the play-offs.
"I've never been as nervous in my life as against Swindon - both games. There's so much to lose in that 90 minutes, so much pressure. It's what we train every day for, though, and are paid to do. When there's so much at stake, it's like a cup game but there's more to lose.
"I think every fan gets nervous too. It's not until afterwards that they think 'God, what was riding on it?' I saw how distraught the Swindon fans were and feel a bit sorry for them."
Iwelumo, who revealed that Brighton know their five penalty takers and have been practising all week ahead of any shoot-out in the final, realises his partnership with Knight will be a major threat on Sunday.
"Leon speaks for himself," he added. "He came through the ranks at Chelsea, went to Huddersfield but was played on the right at Sheffield Wednesday, which was a bit frustrating for him as he's an out-and-out striker.
"He came to Brighton at the same level and has banged in the goals at a phenomenal rate. He's a good lad as well. I get on well with Leon and we're going for something to eat tonight.
"It helps that me and him have a certain rapport with each other, which is a good thing."
As for Bristol City, manager Danny Wilson will be taking on his former club.
"There's history with him and the club but I think he was delighted not to get Swindon as that would have been a local derby," said the former Preston hit-man.
"They've been there or thereabouts for about four seasons and, although obviously I hope their time hasn't come yet, they will be promoted within the next couple of seasons."
Iwelumo has clarified his own personal situation after some reports claimed he was only on loan from Stoke.
"Stoke offered me a new contract before Christmas but I was a little bit frustrated," he affirmed. "I just wanted to play football and Brighton showed interest and gave me a chance of first team football.
"They took my contract over but it runs out on June 30. First things first, we need to try to get promoted and they've told me they want me to stay but I will weigh up my options.
"I enjoy it at Brighton and get on well with the players but, for everyone, football is turning into a bit of a business nowadays and you've got to consider your options and do right by your family."