Aston Villa promoted to the Premier League After Nervy win over Derby

Aston villa celebrates their return to top flight

Aston Villa secured promotion back to the Premier League after goals from Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn earned a deserved 2-1 win over Derby in the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley

Aston Villa  are back in the Premier League after They overcame Derby County
Aston Villa are back in the Premier League after They overcame Derby County

In the end it was Villa who deservedly held out and, following an absence of three years, they are back in the Premier League after winning yet another gut-wrenching, rollercoaster Championship play-off final.

Hi-ho silver lining, they sang, the first song up after the final whistle – and there is plenty of silver to be earned in what is, of course, the single richest game in world football, unlocking guaranteed broadcast incomes of £170 million from being in the Premier League for just one season. Twelve months after the agony of losing the play-off final to Fulham, Villa’s ambition will stretch way beyond that with the Duke, a baseball cap over his head, carousing with former player John Carew at the final whistle.

Villa, one of the grand clubs of English football, are back in the big time, and despite the goals of Anwar El Ghazi and John McGinn, the eye-catching moments of captain Jack Grealish and the defensive power of Tyrone Mings, this day belonged to head coach Dean Smith.

A lifelong Villa fan who grew up in Great Barr, Smith took over last October, with the fans feeling disenfranchised and the season drifting, and has brought back a sense of unity and belief that was clear to see throughout the 97 minutes of this game and in the exuberant, champagne-sprayed celebrations afterwards.

There is personal pain, too, in that the 48-year-old’s father, Ron, a former Villa Park steward, is suffering from dementia and is unaware that his son is in charge of the club they both cherish so deeply. Smith stood, arms outstretched, next to Grealish, another staunch Villa fan, as they both held the trophy aloft. There were tears in the royal box from Smith’s family.

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Both men will be key to Villa’s future and fortune in the Premier League and it appears inconceivable that the club will countenance any offers for Grealish, whose captaincy and subsequent contribution has been a masterstroke orchestrated by Smith. “Boy, the kid has matured,” he said.

In importance, the 23-year-old midfielder is closely followed by McGinn who scored the decisive goal and has become such a talisman after being a £2.5m bargain buy under Smith’s predecessor, Steve Bruce.

That the goal also resulted from an error was in keeping with Derby’s patchy display. The in-game changes made by manager Frank Lampard – bringing on Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn, who apparently was not fully-fit – worked but the bad news was he made them when his team were 2-0, and after his decision to start with Tom Huddlestone had back-fired. The 32 year-old had slowed down the midfield and made it easy for Villa to dictate the pace.

What also did not work was Lampard’s faith in Dutch goalkeeper Kelle Roos, ahead of the more experienced Scott Carson, and he was badly at fault for McGinn’s goal. It is set to be a summer of uncertainty for Derby with doubts over the manager’s future, their best players being loanees and with the club’s finances under severe scrutiny. The squad will change, Lampard admitted, with one note being this will probably represent 38-year-old Ashley Cole’s last game.

Both men will be key to Villa’s future and fortune in the Premier League and it appears inconceivable that the club will countenance any offers for Grealish, whose captaincy and subsequent contribution has been a masterstroke orchestrated by Smith. “Boy, the kid has matured,” he said.

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In importance, the 23-year-old midfielder is closely followed by McGinn who scored the decisive goal and has become such a talisman after being a £2.5m bargain buy under Smith’s predecessor, Steve Bruce.

Aston villa celebrates their return to top flight
Aston villa celebrates their return to top flight

That the goal also resulted from an error was in keeping with Derby’s patchy display. The in-game changes made by manager Frank Lampard – bringing on Jack Marriott and Martyn Waghorn, who apparently was not fully-fit – worked but the bad news was he made them when his team were 2-0, and after his decision to start with Tom Huddlestone had back-fired. The 32 year-old had slowed down the midfield and made it easy for Villa to dictate the pace.

What also did not work was Lampard’s faith in Dutch goalkeeper Kelle Roos, ahead of the more experienced Scott Carson, and he was badly at fault for McGinn’s goal. It is set to be a summer of uncertainty for Derby with doubts over the manager’s future, their best players being loanees and with the club’s finances under severe scrutiny. The squad will change, Lampard admitted, with one note being this will probably represent 38-year-old Ashley Cole’s last game.

Villa will hope they have banished uncertainty. They are on a more secure footing, following their takeover last summer, and being promoted should propel them even further forward.

In keeping with that they made the running, quite literally, as they took the game to Derby, and that was summed up with the opening goal just before half-time as Grealish played the ball infield to McGinn which he allowed to travel, in a kind of improvised fall, through to Conor Hourihane who quickly moved it on to Albert Adomah. In turn the winger teed up Ahmed Elmohamady who swung in a cross that El Ghazi met, stealing in front of Jayden Bogle, to head beyond Roos. Maybe, in fact, it came off El Ghazi’s back. Either way Villa were in front.

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They moved further ahead, and again El Ghazi was involved as he cut infield before shooting, with the ball deflecting high into the air. It looped towards goal with Roos attempting to catch it, but keeping his arms low, allowing McGinn to dart in – all 5ft 7in of him as opposed to the 6ft 4in goalkeeper – and head the ball into the net.

That was poor from Derby; as poor as they had performed until that point. They had to respond, surely, and did so, bolstered by Lampard’s changes. Suddenly they were quicker, sharper, with Marriott shooting across goal and narrowly wide and Bogle slashing the ball into the side-netting when well-placed.

The pressure grew and with nine minutes to go the game was placed in the balance. Mings did superbly to deny Waghorn but a cross eventually came in with Bogle cushioning a header that was collected by Marriott. The striker took a touch and shot low into the corner of the goal with the ball brushing Waghorn on the way in.

It became ever more frantic, with even more camera shots to Prince William, and with Derby pushing hard, as they had to. After a long delay, Mings could not carry on and the board showed seven added minutes. The Derby fans roared. But, in the end, it was the Villa supporters making the noise. “It feels right that Aston Villa are in the Premier League,” Smith said. They are. And with a royal seal of approval.