Tuesday 28 May 2013
Ian Holloway praised Crystal Palace's fighting spirit after his side won promotion to the Barclays Premier League via the Championship play-offs. An extra-time penalty from Kevin Phillips ensured Palace were 1-0 winners against Watford in the final at Wembley to end an eight-year absence from the top flight.
Palace had dominated the second half after a cagey opening period, and the Palace manager, who had won one Championship play-off final and lost another while in charge of Blackpool, believes his side more than did enough to claim the spoils.
"We fought and battled it out, we had a tough few weeks before the play-offs, people were disappointed not to get in through automatic promotion," he said. "We're in the Premier League now. It's absolutely massive for the club. We've got plans to change the ground [Selhurst Park], it's getting a bit old in places, so I'm just delighted for everybody connected with the club. They're gentlemen and I'm very privileged."
"We're in the Premier League now. It's absolutely massive for the club"
Holloway was realistic about Palace’s chances of avoiding relegation next season but vowed to give it a go. His Blackpool team won lots of plaudits for their style of play in the Barclays Premier League in 2010/11 but went down on the final day of the season. This will be Palace’s fifth season in the Barclays Premier League but in each of the previous four they were relegated. The Palace manager will be aiming to avoid such a fate next season.
"It all starts now for me because the minute we kick off next we're on a hiding to nothing, so we've got to make sure we can compete and I want to stay there," he said.
Phillips' spot-kick against the side where he made his breakthrough ensured that the former Sunderland forward won his first play-off final in four attempts, and the 39-year-old could not hide his delight.
"It's fourth time lucky, I've lost three play-off finals," he said. “I'm delighted to get that feeling. To come on and get the winning goal against the club where it all started is a fairytale."
Defeat for Watford comes at the end of a season when they narrowly missed out on automatic promotion on the final day but booked their place in the play-off final with a last-minute goal against Leicester City. Manager Gianfranco Zola conceded that the loss will hurt everyone at the club, but insisted his team will come back stronger next term.
"It is tough for me and is tough for everyone connected to Watford. It hasn't been our best game but to lose to an extra-time penalty is hard to take," Zola said. "They [Crystal Palace] played well and probably deserved more than us, so congratulations to them.
"We have to be honest, it has been remarkable. We had a lot of fun this year. We are going to make a stronger team. The players we believe are good enough, and if we want them to stay, they stay."
Palace will join Cardiff City and Hull City in gaining promotion after they won and finished runners-up respectively in the Championship. The three teams will find out whom they face next season when the Barclays Premier League fixtures are announced on 19 June.
Crystal Palace have been in the Barclays Premier League for four seasons but were relegated after each one.