Date:Monday April 30 2007
After all the ups and downs of this season and what seemed to be the certainty of the playoffs after the disaster of the Easter weekend, Derby's collapse against Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon has seen both Birmingham and Sunderland promoted at the first time of asking, a featthat only 25% of relegated teams achieve.
The outcome of the Championship itself will not be decided until next week, but the stress of racing for the automatic spots has now been removed from Steve Bruce and his squad.
Ironically for Birmingham, promotion has come exactly one year following their relegation following their game against Newcastle on April 29th 2006.
It was even more ironic that none other than ex-Blues player Clinton Morrison should be the man to fire one of the final nails into the coffin bearing Derby County's automatic promotion hopes.
The Rams were poor and disjointed this afternoon, making them an easy target for a Palace side who played as though they were chasing promotion themselves.
With three teams broken away from the rest of the top-half pack, it was inevitable that one would be bitterly disappointed by the end of the season. It remains for Billy Davies to galvanise his squad into chasing glory through the lottery of the playoffs.
Automatic promotion was hung in the balance for Birmingham on Saturday with Derby's game delayed until the following day. Had they also won then the race for the Premiership would have gone on to a final day showdown on May 6th.
As it was, their trip back into the top flight took on a slightly surreal edge as fans watched their fate unfolding on TV and realised that at last, the party can start.
The Premiership next year will not be an easy ride; the squad must now be expanded and rebuilt and the Blues board have already stated their intentions to buy well and wisely.
But they're back and it's time to celebrate.
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