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Blackpool rocks into Premier League

The seasiders return to the top flight of English football for the first time since 1971 after a 3-2 victory over Cardiff City at Wembley.
David Marshall, the Cardiff goalkeeper, tries to punch the ball away to safety against Blackpool at Wembley yesterday.
David Marshall, the Cardiff goalkeeper, tries to punch the ball away to safety against Blackpool at Wembley yesterday.

LONDON // Nine years ago, Blackpool were playing in the fourth division of English football. Yesterday, Brett Ormerod's first-half winner in the Championship play-off final gave the tiny seaside club from Lancashire the most lucrative promotion in the history of English football. Blackpool have been out of the top flight since 1971 but they showed remarkable character to twice come from behind to win 3-2 and clinch a place in the Premier League, estimated to be worth £90 million (Dh472.5m).

"You don't understand what it means, we're going to have so much money," a hoarse Ian Holloway, Blackpool's manager, told Sky Sports, referring to the Deloitte estimated £90m reward for the winner of the match dubbed the "richest game in football". "This is absolutely magnificent, not just for the team but for the whole area we come from. "I can't believe this. It's outstanding. I have never worked with a group of people who deserve this more. I can't put this into words. I'm bursting with pride."

The promotion caps a fairy-tale story for Blackpool, nicknamed the Seasiders because the town is one of England's most famous holiday resorts, who were tipped to be relegated at the start of the season. Blackpool's average home crowd of 8,611 was the second-lowest in the Championship this season and they will be the smallest club in the top flight since the formation of the Premier League. "All the lads deserve enormous credit, we've worked so hard and now we've earned the right to play at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and so on," said Charlie Adam, scorer of Blackpool's first equaliser. "We'll enjoy the occasion, enjoy the summer, but next season can't come quickly enough."

Michael Chopra put Cardiff ahead after nine minutes, but Adam soon levelled with a free-kick for his 19th goal of the season before Joe Ledley restored the Welsh club's advantage with a neat finish. Yet the energy and desire that has been so evident in the charismatic Holloway's side throughout the campaign again came to the fore as Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Ormerod struck from close range shortly before the break to put Blackpool in front.

Ormerod's 13th goal of the season - undoubtedly the most important strike of the 33-year-old's career - gave the Seasiders an advantage they did not surrender. The striker, who has played in all four English football divisions, was lost for words. "I honestly don't know what to say," the 33-year-old mumbled, fighting back the tears. "We got written off at the start of the season but the gaffer has come in ? he deserves knighting, I tell you."

Keith Southern, the Blackpool midfielder, added: "This is one of the best days of my life. The lads have run through brick walls for the club this season. We always felt we had goals in the team and the boys never know when they're beaten. "Never in a million years did we believe this could happen at the start of the season. But it shows what can happen with a bit of belief." Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager who was hoping for a return to the Premier League after leading Wolves in the top flight in 2003/04, bemoaned an early injury which forced key striker Jay Bothroyd out of the game.

"Losing Jay was a massive blow for us, but we got in front again - we just didn't keep that lead," he said. "You want to rip into one or two [players]. It's not the time and not the place. Everybody's really down. You've just got to take it on the chin. Well done to Ollie [Holloway], well done to his players." * PA Sport

Published: May 23, 2010 04:00 AM

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