Michael Doyle was shackled to the substitutes’ bench as Sheffield United’s play-off aspirations disintegrated.
Frustratingly, he knew his manager had no intention of tossing him the key.
You have just got to grasp it, 180 minutes of football can be over in the matter of 10 minutesMichael Doyle
The Blades tumbled out of last season’s League One play-off semi-finals following a remarkable 5-5 draw at Swindon Town.
Nigel Clough’s side slipped to an aggregate 7-6 defeat, with Doyle and Ben Davies among five unused substitutes on that County Ground evening.
The circumstances behind the failure still rankle with Doyle.
Having missed only three league games all season, his play-off participation consisted of a total of two minutes over both legs.
Now the 34-year-old finds himself leading Pompey into their League Two play-off campaign.
It kicks off tonight against Plymouth Argyle at Fratton Park in front of a sell-out crowd.
And this time there is no chance he will be relegated to the bench for the grand occasion.
Doyle said: ‘In nine years at Coventry I never had a piece of success, no play-offs nothing, that’s football.
‘Then once you get that taste of promotion and play-offs at Leeds and Sheffield United you want it all the time. It can be hard trying to get that, though.
‘Sometimes you can go your whole career without it – and I just cannot wait for tonight.
‘Last season I had fallen out of favour for them to be honest. You don’t want to look back but I should have been playing in those games, there is no doubt about it.
‘There were people playing out of position to feature in my position, which tells you everything you need to know about someone else’s decisions.
‘You just have to bite your lip and get on with it, that’s football, the manager gets paid to do his job and he made those decisions.
‘It was disappointing but probably told me the story of what was going to happen at the end of the season and I was going to be let go.
‘If I have played in those games and done well they would have to keep you – and probably that was the mentality of the manager there. That is one of the main reasons I felt I didn’t play.
‘I’m here again, though, and while I don’t plan to retire any time soon, I will be telling the younger players they might never get games like this again.’
Doyle will return to Paul Cook’s starting line-up having been rested for last weekend’s visit of Northampton.
And he hopes to pass on his play-off experiences to a Pompey side desperate for progression to Wembley.
He added: ‘You have just got to grasp it, 180 minutes of football can be over in the matter of 10 minutes.
‘The whole atmosphere in these things are totally different, you can feel it as players, the Sky cameras are there, everybody is tense but you have to embrace it and do the best you can.
‘We’ve had a way of playing all year and I’m sure we will stick to it and try our best to get ourselves to Wembley.
‘We must concentrate on ourselves. It’s a tough draw for both teams, no doubt about it, they are a good team and we are a good team.’