LONDON, May 25 – Burnley were promoted to the English Premier League on Monday as Wade Elliott's stunning strike earned a 1-0 victory over 10-man Sheffield United in the Championship play-off final.Owen Coyle’s club can look forward to a 60 million pounds windfall as a result of their triumph at Wembley, but more important than the financial rewards of success in football’s single richest game is the prospect of Turf Moor hosting top-flight action for the first time since 1976.
Instead of taking on the likes of Scunthorpe and Doncaster next season, the Clarets can look forward to facing Manchester United and Chelsea and enjoying trips to Anfield and the Emirates Stadium.
Burnley, an unglamorous Lancashire town, has a population of just 88,000 and almost half of them had made the trip to London to roar their side into the top-flight. Now those fans can proudly boast that they come from the smallest town in England to have a Premier League team.
After decades in the wilderness, Burnley, who were crowned champions of England in 1960, have much to thank Coyle for.
The Scot – who as a player won promotion to the Premier League the same way with Bolton who came from 3-0 down to beat Reading 4-3 – has created an enterprising team in less than two years in charge and they completely outplayed United, who had substitute Jamie Ward sent off for two handballs late in the second half.
Coyle’s side were playing the 61st match of a marathon season that including victories over Chelsea, Arsenal and Fulham en route to the League Cup semi-finals, but they ignored their aching limbs to match United blow for blow.
Only in the opening moments did United threaten as goalkeeper Brian Jensen was tested with low shots from Kyle Naughton and Brian Howard.
But Burnley held their nerve and took the lead in the 13th minute with a sublime finish.
Elliott started the move with a surging run and pass to Chris McCann. When McCann was dispossessed the ball rolled back to Elliott on the edge of the penalty area and he curled a first-time shot into the top corner of Paddy Kenny’s goal.
Blackwell had complained about the decision to appoint Mike Dean as referee because of the official’s preceived poor performance in a United match earlier this season when he sent off one of his players in the match with Sheffield Wednesday.
That public criticism came back to haunt him when the Blades appealed for a penalty as Howard tumbled in the area under a clumsy challenge from Graham Alexander.
Replays showed United had a reasonable case but Dean – who was also in charge when Blackwell’s then team Leeds United lost to Watford three years ago – then waved away their protests.
Elliott turned provider just before half-time with a cross that Steve Thompson headed just past the far post.
Michael Duff nearly increased Burnley’s lead just after half-time when he poked wide from Robbie Blake’s corner.
Coyle’s side went even closer minutes later when Joey Gudjsonsson’s shot from no more than four yards hit Nick Montgomery on the goalline and deflected to safety.
United had another huge let-off 10 minutes later when Thompson sprang the offside trap again and this time squared the ball across to Blake, only for young defender Kyle Walker to make a goal-saving challenge.
Dean infuriated Blackwell again in the 68th minute when Christian Kalvenes knocked Naughton off the ball in the area. Again United’s penalty claims were in vain.
With 10 minutes to go, Dean dealt United a fatal blow when he sent off Ward. The striker had barely been on the pitch when he was booked for handball, then he compounded his stupidity by controlling a long pass with his arm, earning a second booking and confirming Burnley’s victory.
While Burnley’s players headed off for a champagne celebration, the tee-total Coyle insisted he would settle for a glass of the famous Scottish soft drink Irn-bru.
Whatever he drank was well deserved after the greatest moment in his career.