Posted on Apr 28
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins admitted a weight had been lifted off his shoulders after his side finally clinched promotion to the Premier League.
Adkins' men had been favourites to go up for much of the campaign, but looked in danger of blowing their bid to reach the top-flight after two defeats in their last three games.
Heading into the final day of the Championship campaign, Southampton knew a victory over relegated Coventry would be enough to hold off the challenge from third placed West Ham, who could snatch the second automatic promotion spot with a win over Hull and a Saints defeat.
And Adkins' side delivered in style as goals from Billy Sharp, Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana crushed Coventry in front of a capacity crowd at St Mary's.
After a seven-year absence from the Premier League, the Saints will be rubbing shoulders with Manchester United, Chelsea and company thanks to successive promotions under Adkins, who couldn't hide his relief at meeting the club's increasingly high expectations.
"I won the League One title with Scunny (Scunthorpe) and it's a similar feeling," Adkins said.
"That weight is off your shoulders, that burden - you're doing everything you can to keep everybody focused and all of a sudden you've achieved it.
"Now we've got to look at a new set of goals. We've achieved that, we've got to go and achieve something else.
"We've put a lot of hard work in and a lot of hours but we've achieved something special this season.
"We achieved something special last season and I suppose it's that drive to do well. Everyone works so hard at this football club and it's great to see the smiles and delight on the supporters' faces.
"It's been a nervy week for them but it's been well worth it. Every plaudit that goes their way they richly deserve because they've worked hard for it."
Despite the celebrations following the final whistle at St Mary's, Adkins revealed the failure to claim the Championship title was the only regret at the end of a triumphant campaign.
A stumble towards the end of the season allowed Reading to sneak into top spot above Southampton and he added: "It's a great achievement to get promoted, but I'm gutted we haven't won the league to be honest.
"I really wanted to win the league so we'll have to get over that.
"It's very soon after the game so it's very emotional still. I'm just trying to take it all in.
"I need to let it all soak in but it's been very, very special.
"I'd like to think I'm going to have a glass of champagne tonight because that's what you should do if you win."