GARY Rowett says his Burton Albion side will not be distracted by outside influences in the run-up to the play-offs.
The Brewers boss felt his men may have taken their eye off the ball last season as they prepared to face Bradford City.
They lost 5-4 on aggregate after being 2-0 up in the first leg at Valley Parade.
Rowett does not want a repeat this time around as Albion face Southend in the first leg at the Pirelli Stadium on Sunday, kick-off noon.
“It’ll be an interesting build-up this week,” said the manager.
“We’ve got to make sure all the little off-the-field things don’t detract from our preparation.
“We found last year that one or two things that go on off the pitch – the media side of it and the stuff we do with the club – we need to control that a little bit better and the players need to be 100 per cent focused on the job in hand.”
The Brewers have been preparing for the play-offs for the last few weeks, possibly to the detriment of recent results.
But Rowett says getting preparation done in advance has been crucial and could be the difference between getting to Wembley and going out at the semi-final stage for the second year running.
“What we’ve done is purposely had quite a hard week last week,” he said. “Again, I knew that would take a little bit of a toll on the players’ legs at Southend on Saturday, but we’ve done that purposely so they feel the benefit this week when we have to taper down to the end of the week.
“Really, we’ve been preparing physically for two or three weeks now.
“It’s allowed us to look ahead to that first play-off game as if it’s the first game of the season almost.
“We’ve also done a lot of work on what we might do and tactically we’re going to be ahead of the game in terms of the time we’ve spent with the players.
“So, I’m looking forward to the games. They’re great games to be a part of and it’s a testament to our players that we’re in there again.”
Play-offs are cup football and Rowett knows anything can happen across two legs.
“You look at the Champions League games in the week,” he said. “Who would’ve thought Real Madrid would’ve scored four goals across two legs against possibly the best side in the world, Bayern Munich?
“So the games are unpredictable, anything can happen, and it’s who copes with the moments the best.”