Nottingham Forest return to Premier League after £170m play-off victory

Huddersfield own goal secures win and remarkable turnaround under manager Steve Cooper

Nottingham Forest's Lewis Grabban lifts the trophy after winning the Championship play-off final for a place in the Premier League. Action Images
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Nottingham Forest clinched promotion to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years with a 1-0 win against Huddersfield in the Championship play-off final on Sunday, a game worth £170 million ($215m) to the winners.

Levi Colwill's own goal late in the first half at Wembley was enough for Steve Cooper's side to hit the jackpot in the most lucrative single match in world football.

Forest will gratefully accept the huge financial windfall, but it was the relief at ending their long exile from English football's elite that spurred the frenzied scenes of celebration among their thousands of red and white-clad fans.

For the first time in the 21st century, Forest can look forward to welcoming the Premier League's top clubs to their City Ground stadium.

The promotion was a personal triumph for Cooper, who has revitalised Forest since replacing the sacked Chris Hughton in September

Forest were bottom of the table after taking one point from their first seven games, but Cooper had the midas touch as he erased the bitter taste of his defeat with Swansea in last year's Championship play-off final against Brentford.

Cooper repaired the wounds of Forest's worst start to a season for 108 years and ensured they remained focus after losing a shot at automatic promotion in their penultimate game of the season against top-two rivals Bournemouth.

Fourth placed Forest beat Sheffield United on penalties in the play-off semi-final and held their nerve again to earn the ultimate prize against Huddersfield.

"I'm just so proud of the players, staff, fans," said Forest defender Joe Worrall.

"We've been fantastic all season - we were really unlucky to not go up automatically. We've played with honesty and we play football the right way," he added.

Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper kisses the trophy as he celebrates winning promotion to the Premier League. PA

Having knocked Arsenal and Leicester out of this season's FA Cup before losing narrowly to Liverpool, Forest's sleeping giants have awoken from their slumber at last.

Forest's golden period came under legendary boss Brian Clough, who led them to the English title in 1978 and won the European Cup in 1979 and 1980.

Clough's retirement in 1993 triggered a steep decline in Forest's fortunes, with their wilderness years featuring a three-season spell in the third tier.

Forest had been regular visitors to Wembley during Clough's heyday but this was their first appearance at the national stadium since 1992.

Former Forest skipper Stuart Pearce welcomed the end of the club’s exile from the top flight.

“Nottingham Forest will be a massive credit to the Premier League next year," the former England defender told Sky Sports.

“The atmosphere inside the stadium is quite incredible. I’m not sure I ever played at Wembley in a Forest team that had this sort of atmosphere.

“That’s how much it means to this football club. They’ve waited a hell of a long time to actually get back into the Premier League.”

Updated: May 29, 2022, 7:03 PM
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