Euphoria was mixed with relief, admitted manager Alex McLeish, after Birmingham City had clinched promotion back to the Premiership with a 2-1 win at Reading on the final day of the Coca-Cola Championship campaign.

Having dropped out of the top flight last term Blues were installed as promotion favourites, but after topping the table early in the season they had too many ups and downs to prevent the nerves from fraying as they approached the finishing line.

McLeish said: "It was as hard a season as I have ever endured, and I've been in relegation tussles before. You feel the burden of how much it (promotion) means to this club, so this is up with the best things I've done.

"It's up there with the greatest achievements I've had as a manager, because I know just how much it means to Blues fans all over the world. But the consequences of not going up - it was very difficult to not get that out of my head at times.

"I know how much it means to get to the Premier League because there are so many terrific clubs in the Championship who have been Premier League clubs before and are now fighting to get back up there.

"The atmosphere was euphoric in the dressing room after the game, but there was some relief as well." Relief indeed, for players, directors and fans as well as the manager on a day described as, "utterly draining" by club owner David Sullivan.

"At 2-0," said Sullivan, "I thought we'd done it. But we conceded a goal straightaway and you think, 'now we've got to do it all over again.' I always said we would be promoted though, and I'm delighted for Alex, the players and everyone involved."

Blues' winner came from former England striker Kevin Phillips, whose goal was the latest in a long series of crucial strikes that last year helped West Bromwich Albion get promoted to the top flight having previously done likewise for Sunderland.

His goal this time doubled Birmingham's lead following Keith Fahey's earlier effort, but Reading quickly hit back through substitute Marek Matejovsky and, as McLeish said later: "It was a bit of an ordeal in the last 20 minutes."

Phillips felt the tension after being substituted 18 minutes from time. "I was feeling sick," he said. "I had knots inside and every time they had the ball I thought they were going to score. It was awful, but the players produced a courageous performance.

"To score the winning goal in the last game of the season to win promotion is great, but I don't want to take all the credit. Yes, I've scored some important goals this season, but it's all about the team and I'm delighted for the lads and the club."

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