"We're in the Premier League. Can I say that again? We're in the Premier League!" Those were the incredulous, disbelieving words of Blackpool Manager Ian Holloway after the Seasiders had clinched promotion with a 3-2 victory over Cardiff City in a stunning, sun-soaked Coca-Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley.
Next season will be the first in 39 years that the club have been in the top flight and Holloway, just 12 months after taking over as Manager, could not believe what he and his unfancied team - relegation favourites at the start of the campaign - had achieved.
"It's way beyond my wildest dreams," said Holloway as the reality began to dawn after the Tangerines had twice come from behind to win a tremendous match played in sweltering, energy-sapping temperatures that rose to 107 degrees.
Goals by Michael Chopra and Joe Ledley were cancelled out by Charlie Adam and Gary Taylor-Fletcher, then striker Brett Ormerod - the man who hit the victory-clincher when Blackpool climbed out of the bottom division with a Play-Off Final win in 2001 - grabbed the winner in first half stoppage time.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of these players," said Holloway. "We've dealt with a team of fantastic individuals, but our spirit shone through. No matter how many times they hit us, and we got a little punch drunk, we carried on and won on points.
"I'm absolutely delighted that these lads can now pit their wits against the best in the world, and that's who they'll be playing against in the Premier League. You'll probably see us take a few hammerings, but those top clubs will have to come to Blackpool and it might find one or two out."
Holloway's joy was his good friend Dave Jones' sorrow as Cardiff, 48 years out of the top flight, failed at the last hurdle in their attempt to make a long-awaited return.
"Well done to my mate Olly," said the Bluebirds boss. "He's got the prize today and I've got to suffer. Everything's raw at the moment, but I wish Blackpool all the best.
"We've been knocking on the door for the last couple of years and we were close today, but not close enough. We have to take it on the chin and bounce back."
While Jones will take a short break then turn his attention to another Cardiff season in the Championship, Holloway is contemplating the glorious thought of Blackpool taking on the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in arguably the strongest League in world football.
But never mind the Premier League: "I want to win the Champions League in two years," joked Holloway as he looked ahead to a scenario that, he said, "will change the lives of everyone concerned with Blackpool Football Club.
"As for the players," he added, "it will be about getting each individual to believe in themselves and that will be my job. It's onwards and upwards - bring it on!"
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