Ian Holloway praised his Crystal Palace heroes and Kevin Phillips in particular after the veteran striker fired the Eagles into the Barclays Premier League at Wembley.
Phillips' extra-time penalty earned Palace a 1-0 win over Watford and promotion from the npower Championship in a game where £120million was at stake. Now Holloway, who led Blackpool to the Premier League with victory in the 2010 play-off final, will seek to mastermind top-flight survival at Selhurst Park.
Rather than be too concerned about the recruitment possibilities from the enhanced revenue, Holloway focused on his players. He said: "How much you spend on your group isn't always what gives you. It's what's inside their hearts and how much they work for you. I've been very fortunate that both teams that have done it for me, I was privileged to have worked with them. To me they're Palace heroes."
With leading goalscorer Glen Murray injured, Phillips stepped up in his fourth play-off final to send Palace back to the top flight. The 39-year-old had suffered play-off final heartache for Sunderland, West Brom and Blackpool, but had Holloway's backing.
"If I had to put everything I own on someone smacking it in the net, then I'd put it on Kev," Holloway said.
Phillips is on loan from Blackpool, where his contract expires imminently, and Holloway would happily sign the striker once again. "I'll keep signing him until he's nearly 50 or 60, if he keeps putting the ball in the net," the Palace boss said.
Phillips' decisive strike came in the 105th minute, with Holloway having already determined his penalty takers. The spot-kick was earned when £15m winger Wilfred Zaha bamboozled the Watford defence for the umpteenth time and was brought down by Marco Cassetti.
Holloway is tempted to ask new Manchester United boss David Moyes if he can borrow Zaha next season. "I think he'd be silly to give me him back," Holloway said. "Now we're up it might be realistic, but who knows?"
Gianfranco Zola plans to remain at Watford despite their near miss. Zola was magnanimous in defeat, conceding Palace were the better side on the day, but felt his team deserved a second-half penalty when a Palace defender blocked the ball inside the area.
Zola said: "This game doesn't take anything away from our season. It's been a very good season. It's a very unfortunate thing we didn't play our best game. They played better and they deserved to win the game."