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Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Cardiff promoted to Premier League

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Wales will have two teams in next season's Premier League after Cardiff gained promotion to the lucrative top flight on Tuesday for the first time in 51 years.

Cardiff, which was playing in the fourth tier and suffering severe financial hardship only 11 years ago, guaranteed a top-two finish in the League Championship thanks to its 0-0 draw against Charlton. The players were mobbed by fans who poured onto the pitch at the final whistle at Cardiff City Stadium.

Manager Malky Mackay's class of 2013 had goalkeeper David Marshall to thank for a string of fine saves to keep out the in-form Addicks before the final whistle sparked memorable scenes in the Welsh capital 53 years to the day since Cardiff last achieved promotion to the top tier.

The delirious Bluebirds fans invaded the pitch to lift their heroes on their shoulders after securing their first appearance in the Premier League. The City faithful have suffered playoff and cup final heartache on a regular basis in recent years and Mackay says the success is for them.

"I am very proud of the football club," he said. "It is an occasion the people of this football club have waited an awful long time for. There has been a lot of disappoint in that time and the backroom staff and directors here have been through some tough times. Obviously the players and especially the people of Cardiff have been waiting a long time to be back in the top division and we've never been in the Premier League.

"They have backed me and the team in the last 18 months and for that I'll be forever grateful. I hope this goes a little way to repaying the backing they have given me since I came in."

Cardiff, owned by Malaysian millionaire Vincent Tan, has led the Championship since November and just needs one win from its final three games to go up as champions. The team has been beaten in the playoffs for the past three years but has had a more sturdy look to it this season under Mackay, who led Cardiff to the League Cup final last season where it lost to Liverpool.

"It's been pretty difficult to keep picking yourself up after all the disappointments," Cardiff's long-serving defender Kevin McNaughton said. "The fans have waited a long time for this."

With Swansea having established itself in the Premier League since promotion in 2011, Wales has two teams in the division for the first time. Cardiff will be the 46th different side to play in the Premier League since its inception in 1992.

Cardiff can look forward to earning at least 60 million pounds ($90 million) in television money next season when the Premier League's biggest ever TV contract begins at the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

Mackay revealed Cardiff has plans to put into action in the coming months as thoughts now turn to the challenge that awaits.

"Its a huge challenge," he said. "We are going into the one of the best leagues in the world. We are going to plan properly, that has started already and we will now put that in action. We will make sure the structure we have put in place keeps striding forward and keeps adding because change is constant.

"We have been doing that for two years, changing and adapting and pushing at the envelope and we will continue doing that to make sure we give ourselves the best chance in the Premier League. We have been competitive in this league, every team we have played in the last 20 months we have been competitive against. That will not change in the Premier League."

In Ricardo Fuller, Charlton possesses a striker who is certainly no stranger to the top flight and the former Stoke targetman tested Marshall after just two minutes with a low curling shot that the Scot turned around the post.

Craig Bellamy is another player who is more than accustomed to English football's top division, and the Cardiff captain's radar was just off with a seventh minute free kick.

The opposing left winger, Callum Harriott, was keeping McNaughton on his toes with his quick feet and direct running -- winning a corner before dragging a shot wide.

Chris Powell's men were continuing to show just why they ran out 6-0 winners at Oakwell last weekend.

In the 21st minute, Johnnie Jackson's curling left-footed free kick was superbly tipped onto his near post by Marshall.

Bellamy has spoken at length of his desire to drag his boyhood club into the Premier League and he was next to try his luck, curling a typical right-footed shot over the crossbar in the 28th minute after midfielders Jordon Mutch and Aron Gunnarsson had linked up well.

A minute later, Kim Bo-Kyung wasted a brilliant opportunity down the Cardiff right which had the full house on its feet. After being slipped in by Craig Noone, he delayed on his square ball to Bellamy for too long and eventually ran it out of play.

Cardiff was beginning to find its rhythm with Mutch heading wide in the 33rd minute after a deep whipped cross from their skipper, and Kim then rustled Ben Hamer's sidenetting with a free kick that a section of the ground believed was in.

And it took the Bluebirds just 30 seconds of the second half to carve out a chance, Noone's cross was headed out as far as Andrew Taylor, whose fizzing left-foot drive clipped the outside of the post.

Gunnarsson, making his 200th appearance in English football, was next to try his luck with a long-range banana shot before a driven effort from Leon Barnett warmed the gloves of Hamer as the home support upped the ante, aware that top-flight football was potentially less than 30 minutes away.

But Mackay's men were once again indebted to Marshall for another top drawer save to stop Fuller spoiling their promotion party just after the hour mark.

The Scotland international was at full stretch to claw the curling goalbound effort out of his bottom right hand corner and around the post.

In the 69th minute, Cardiff looked to have finally made the breakthrough when Noone turned Mutch's curling delivery into the bottom corner, but an offside flag cut his celebrations short.

A swift counterattack 10 minutes later saw the ball fall to Bellamy, but his low shot was deflected wide and no one could get on the end of the former Liverpool man's inviting corner.

The news that Millwall had taken the lead against Watford was greeted by chants of 'the Blues are going up' as the realization began to set in that the 51-year wait was over.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.




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