Rodgers' Swansea hit EPL jackpot
Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers admits his club have hit the jackpot as they clinched a lucrative promotion to the Premier League with a 4-2 victory over Reading in the Championship play-off final.
Rodgers' side will play in the top-flight for the first time in 28 years thanks to Scott Sinclair's hat-trick and a Stephen Dobbie strike at Wembley on Monday.
After decades languishing in the lower leagues, the Welsh club will rub shoulders with world famous clubs like Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool next season. While the big guns may inflict a few painful defeats on Swansea, Rodgers knows the financial rewards from winning promotion, believed to be worth £90 million, will be a major boost to a club who couldn't even pay their electricity bill eight years ago.
Back in 2003, cash-strapped Swansea beat Hull 4-2 on the last day of the season to avoid crashing out of the Football League and Rodgers believes it is fate that his side should reach the Premier League's promised land in similar circumstances.
"It's ironic, they won that game 4-2 and a player scored a hat-trick, including two penalties," Rodgers said. "And now the club has done it again to get into the Premier League. The footballing gods were with us. Eight years ago they couldn't pay the electric bill and now they've won a £90 million game."
Swansea will be the first Welsh side to play in the Premier League since it was formed in 1992 and the promotion could have been extra sweet for Rodgers, who was sacked by Reading in December 2009 after just six months in charge. He has worked a miracle since taking over at Swansea at the start of this season, but the 38-year-old Irishman was in no mood to gloat.
"I've nothing bad to say about Reading, I was just there at the wrong time," he said. "It was a big blow to leave a club I loved, and still do. That's why there was not much jumping around at the end."
Swansea were gifted the lead in the 21st minute courtesy of Zurab Khizanishvili's clumsy challenge which felled Nathan Dyer in the area allowing Sinclair to roll in his first penalty. Sinclair struck again barely a minute later when he tapped in Stephen Dobbie's cross at the far post, and just before half-time Dobbie crashed in number three.
But Reading were back in it early in the second half when Noel Hunt's header went in off Joe Allen. A Matt Mills header further reduced the deficit and Reading were inches away from equalising when Jem Karacan hit a post. However they could not complete the fightback and Sinclair sealed promotion with an 80th-minute penalty after Andy Griffin fouled Fabio Borini.
Both former Chelsea reserve Sinclair and Rodgers will have one eye on winning at Stamford Bridge, where the Swansea manager cut his teeth as a youth coach under Jose Mourinho, but for now they will just relish a remarkable achievement. "I'm very proud, I see it as the next step for me," Rodgers added.
"It was my first full season as a manager, it's been a wonderful journey up until now - and now it's going into a totally different stratosphere. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."
Another season in the Championship beckons for Reading boss Brian McDermott, who felt his side would have gone on to win if they had snatched an equaliser. "At half-time I just told them to get the first goal," he said.
"When it got to 3-2 I honestly thought we'd go on to win the game, and we were inches from getting the third one. A first half like that sometimes happens in football and unfortunately it happened at Wembley. So it's congratulations to Swansea."