Burnley secured their return to the Barclays Premier League after a 2-0 defeat of Wigan at Turf Moor yesterday.
The Clarets had been hotly-tipped as one of the Championship’s early-season relegation contenders, but goals by Ashley Barnes and Michael Kightly ensured the club the second automatic promotion spot and their place in English football’s top tier next season.
Yesterday’s result means Burnley can finish no lower than second, and, while Leicester can secure the Championship title tonight with victory over Bolton, manager Sean Dyche insists everyone at the Lancashire club should be proud as they prepare themselves for a shot at the big time.
As a player, Dyche was promoted four times with Chesterfield, Bristol City, Millwall and Northampton. But now he is celebrating promotion as a manager in what is sure to be the sweetest of them all.
Dyche said: “It feels marvellous and feels like the destination at the end of a long journey: an impressive journey from a group of people who are totally motivated and committed to stand the test of what a season is.
“I was promoted four times as a player and I know what it feels like and what it takes as a player but doing it as a manager is an incredible feeling.
“To guide a group of people, when I am still learning and developing, is a major achievement for me, the staff, the players and the club.
“When I came here, I made it clear that managers can only guide players to what they think is appropriate.
“Despite what people think, I don’t scream and shout at them all the time. I talk to them about what I think is important for them as individuals and the team.
“If they realign, then fantastic; if they don’t, we talk some more and if they don’t then they disappear out the building. I think what we have done is historic.
“The challenges of the Championship are getting harder and harder because clubs that get relegated are getting richer.
“So to do it automatically is the thing that is getting harder. To do it automatically, having amassed the points we have, with a low budget, and using 22 players is incredible. I don’t think those markers will be hit again. I think it is a marker in history.”
Burnley’s fast start was rewarded when Barnes turned home Dean Marney’s low cross after 22 minutes.
Marc-Antoine Fortune responded by heading a Jordi Gomez cross against the bar just after half an hour, but Wigan headed into the break two goals behind after Kightly’s free kick from the left side of the box evaded everyone and flew into the corner off Ali Al-Habsi’s far post. Danny Ings almost added to Burnley’s lead after half-time but saw his effort from a tight angle hit the post, while Fortune and Emmerson Boyce both wasted chances to grab a goal at the other end.
A third goal did not materialise for Burnley but the fans were happy with any kind of victory and flooded on to the Turf Moor pitch come the final whistle.
Kightly said: “It’s a great feeling. It’s been a long season but we thoroughly deserve it. We’ll enjoy this, then crack on next year.
“We never got complacent, we always stuck to the job. The boys have been different class and the fans have been magnificent.”
Elsewhere in the Championship, Harry Redknapp’s QPR confirmed their play-off spot after coming from behind to defeat Watford 2-1 at Loftus Road, and Birmingham City’s position near the bottom is becoming increasingly precarious after a 4-2 loss to Blackburn at St Andrew’s.
Lee Clark’s players are only out of the bottom three on goal difference but they do have a game in hand over Blackpool, who currently occupy 22nd position.
In League One, Wolves were confirmed as champions after overcoming Leyton Orient 3-1 at Brisbane Road as Brentford, now confirmed as runners-up, conceded a late goal in their 2-2 draw with MK Dons to hand Kenny Jackett’s men the league crown.
At the foot of the table, Stevenage’s fate was finally sealed as they were beaten 3-1 at home to Bristol Rovers and will play their football in League Two from next season.
Scunthorpe are still in pole position at the top of League Two with just two games remaining, Chesterfield and Rochdale both winning to keep their title hopes alive. And despite Torquay winning at fierce-rivals Exeter 2-1, their demotion to the Conference looks inevitable.