Norwich back in the big time as play-off win nets £120m
Two goals in three minutes send the Canaries back to the Premier League a year after relegation
Norwich 2 Middlesbrough 0
Two goals in three minutes sent Norwich back into the big time on Monday afternoon as they saw off Middlesbrough in the Championship play-off final at Wembley in front of 85,000 fans.
The annual showdown for a place in the Premier League is billed as the richest game in football and the BBC reckons the Canaries' win will net them "a potential £120m".
But rather than dwelling on the financial implications of victory, the club's most famous fan was more interested in singing the praises of the Norwich faithful. "When we went down to League One (in 2009), our supporters still bought tickets and they've stuck with our club. They deserve it and I'm so pleased for them," said Delia Smith, also Norwich's joint majority shareholder.
The celebrity chef paid tribute to Norwich manager Alex Neil, saying: "He's been outstanding and I can't praise him enough. He inspires me, let alone the players."
Neil replaced former boss Neil Adams at Carrow Road in January when the club were seventh but the 33-year-old – who arrived from unfashionable Scottish Premiership side Hamilton – has overseen 17 wins in 25 games during his tenure, and is now the youngest manager in the Premier League, three years the junior of Swansea gaffer Garry Monk. "I believed we would do it, but it's one thing believing it and another thing doing it," exclaimed the Scot. "Big players arrive on the big stage and you saw that in the first 20 minutes - we were unbelievable. We worked so hard to get here."
Cameron Jerome put Norwich ahead on 12 minutes when he pounced on an error by ex-Norwich defender Daniel Ayala to fire past Dimi Konstantopoulos for his 21st goal of the season. Three minutes later Steven Whittaker crossed for England Under-21 winger Nathan Redmond to double the advantage and set Norwich on course to become the 23rd side in history to be promoted back to the top-flight at the first time of asking. "It's emotional after being relegated last year, which was so hard to take," admitted Norwich captain Russell Martin. "We came here and put in our most accomplished performance of the season. We knew we had big-game players, people who've been there and done it, and it paid off today."
Boro, who finished fourth, a point behind Norwich, at the end of the regular season, came closest to scoring when Jelle Vossen rattled the bar. But manager Aitor Karanka conceded that his side – who have been out of the Premier League for six years – didn't do themselves justice when it mattered. "They played better, they didn't make mistakes, we made two mistakes, and in a final you pay for those mistakes," he said of Norwich. "But we have to be proud of the players and this crowd... and we have to keep going the same way because this club, this crowd and this city deserve to be in the Premier League. I will start tomorrow to prepare for next season because it's my job."