LONDON • Chris Hughton has dedicated Brighton & Hove Albion's promotion to the staff and supporters who came through "the difficult periods" after victory against Wigan Athletic ensured his team returned to the top flight after a 34-year absence.
Albion, who almost went into non-league and liquidation in 1997 and have been beaten play-off semi-finalists in three of the past four years, can claim the Championship title with a win at Norwich on Friday.
But Huddersfield Town's draw at Derby on Monday guaranteed elevation to the Premier League. That result left Brighton on 92 points, seven ahead of Newcastle United and 13 clear of third-placed Reading with four games left.
There was a full-scale pitch invasion from delighted fans at the end, and another by the few thousand still present after the final whistle at Derby, with Albion's owner, Tony Bloom, conducting the crowd from the stand.
"I've been here for two years and four months but there are supporters out there who have been through all the difficult periods, supporting this club for 20 to 30 years," Hughton said. "It's a wonderful feeling for myself, but more for a group of supporters and a club when you have a local investor who is prepared to put his own money into a club. Particularly in an era where most of the big investors are from overseas or consortiums. For one individual, a local man, to invest in this club is outstanding."
Bloom has spent around £250 million (S$442 million) during his eight years with the club.
"Days like this are never inevitable," said the 46-year-old. "You can get close six or seven times on the spin and not make it, and it gets tougher every year. There are more owners coming in, spending a lot of money."
Hughton's side missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference last season, despite accruing 89 points, and rallying the group after the disappointment of defeat in the play-offs counts as another impressive performance.
"I'm incredibly proud of the way that they bounced back. To put together the run they have, at this stage of the season, is incredibly difficult, and they deserve every bit of credit," Hughton said.
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS