Ian Harkes believes promotion is within Dundee United’s grasp despite the play-offs being designed to maintain the status quo.
The Tangerines take on St Mirren in the first leg of the Premiership decider on Thursday at Tannadice before heading to Paisley for the second match on Sunday.
Harkes feels the odds are deliberately stacked in the top-flight team’s favour but still believes that United can cause an upset.
Livingston showed it can be done this time last year by beating Partick Thistle 3-1 on aggregate to take the step up a division.
Now Harkes and his teammates will try to emulate them and navigate a way through.
The American midfielder said: “When I got here everyone was explaining the play-offs to me and, I have to say, it is a tough format.
“It is designed to keep you down but if we can get through it then it would be good.
“I definitely feel we have the group to do it.
“The guys have spoken about how Livingston managed it and that is definitely a motivation.
“We have got through the semi-final and now we have to approach Thursday the same way.”
Harkes experienced a play-off type set-up in the United States when he was at DC United.
Even with the help of a certain England and Manchester United legend, though, they didn’t quite succeed.
“It is a different format and pressure but it is exciting to be part of the promotion play-offs,” he said.
“In the US we were trying to reach a cup final but here it is different stakes.
“All the Major League Soccer teams who make the play-offs go into a two-legged cup competition.
“At DC, we had Wayne Rooney came in and then we went on a long winning streak.
“It was good to add him to the group and he helped to change our season.
“Unfortunately, we eventually got knocked out on penalties to Colombus Crew.
“It was still good for the city of Washington and the club to go on such a run because Wayne just raised the bar.
“Before Wayne came in we didn’t even think we were going to make the play-offs, never mind try and win it.
“I think it is good for me to have played in the American play-off and to know what it is like in this type of competition.”
The Buddies were confirmed as United’s opponents on Saturday after being pipped to 10th spot and automatic survival by Hamilton Accies on the final day of the regular season.
Harkes is looking forward to what will be two huge occasions against the Paisley men.
He said: “It is important for the club to get back up and that is what everybody is aiming to do.
“Promotion was the goal for the club since the day I walked into Tannadice.
“That is what we are all fighting for and hopefully we can do it.
“We all need to be level-headed throughout it all and have a belief in ourselves.
“We have to keep fighting.
“We believe and the fans believe as well so we have to give everything.”
Harkes feels the squad has matured together in a relatively short space of time.
He said: “We’ve grown a lot as a team.
“When I first came there were a lot of changes and it was a whole new group.
“It takes time to gel and there were also the boys who were here at the start of the season and did well.
“Hopefully, we are now all gelling and we will show we are ready to go again over these next two games.”
Harkes’ biggest fan, of course, is his grandfather James, who will be cheering him on from across the Atlantic.
“I spoke to him recently and he is really excited,” said Harkes.
“He wishes he could get over fort eh games but has wished me all the best.
“The family all follow me on the internet and try to get a live stream when United play.”