Southampton return to Premier League next season

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Southampton clinched promotion to the Premier League with a 4-0 victory over Coventry on the final day of the Championship campaign on Saturday.

The Saints return to the top flight for the first time since 2005 after goals from Billy Sharp, Jose Fonte, Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana crushed relegated Coventry in front of a jubilant capacity crowd at St Mary’s.

Nigel Adkins’ side needed the win to hold off the threat from third-placed West Ham, who would have snatched the second automatic promotion spot with their 2-1 win victory over Hull if Southampton had lost.

Just two years ago, the south-coast club were facing an uncertain future in League One, but Adkins has masterminded a remarkable transformation and they can now look forward to locking horns with Manchester United, Chelsea and company after back to back promotions.

“A lot of people have put a lot of hard work in here, the players deserve all the plaudits they’ll get as everyone at this club has worked their socks off since I’ve been here,” Adkins told BBC television.

“Southampton are back in the Premier League and I’m a happy man. I’m proud and honoured.”

Saints goalkeeper Kelvin Davis added: “The Premier League is a top division where we all want to play.

“I feel like I’ve got unfinished business here, so my message to the lads will be to grab the opportunity with both hands.”

After blowing a chance to seal promotion at Middlesbrough last Saturday, when a 2-1 defeat left Southampton sweating on their fate for one more week, there might have been a few jitters in the Saints dressing room before kick-off.

But any nerves quickly disappeared as two goals in three minutes killed off Coventry before half-time.

Former Doncaster striker Sharp struck first when he turned in Lallana’s shot in the 16th minute and Portuguese defender Fonte headed the second from Daniel Fox’s 19th minute corner.

Hooiveld netted the third in the 59th minute and highly-rated midfielder Lallana sealed the rout four minutes later.

Southampton finished two points ahead of West Ham and one point behind champions Reading, who sealed their promotion earlier this month and ended their campaign with a 2-0 loss at Birmingham.

The Saints’ victory meant West Ham’s 2-1 win over Hull at Upton Park was rendered meaningless.

Carlton Cole scored twice either side of half-time to put West Ham in control before Corry Evans got one back for the Tigers.

West Ham boss Sam Allardyce insists his side will rebound from their disappointment to go up via the play-offs.

“I stuck my neck out when I arrived and said we wanted promotion in the first season. We still have three games to win, and we will do it,” Allardyce said.

“We have to lick our wounds, get over our disappointment and get ready for the vital games ahead of us.”

Aside from Southampton’s promotion, the only other issue to be resolved on the last day was the final play-off place and it was Cardiff who booked their place in the end of season lottery after a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace.

Cardiff will take on West Ham in the play-offs, with the first leg in south Wales on Thursday, while fifth placed Blackpool, who drew 2-2 at Millwall on Saturday, host the first leg of their play-off clash against fourth placed Birmingham on Friday.

Bluebirds manager Malky Mackay believes Cardiff’s run to this season’s League Cup final, where they were beaten by Liverpool, will stand them in good stead for the play-offs.

“We are 10 games unbeaten going into the play-offs so there is real momentum there,” he said.

“This group of players have already been through big matches this season, with the League Cup semi-final and final. That will benefit us.”

Elsewhere, Watford beat Middlesbrough 2-1, Leicester won 2-1 at Leeds and Ipswich beat relegated Doncaster 3-2.

Nottingham Forest defeated relegated Portsmouth 2-0, while Burnley drew 1-1 with Bristol City and Barnsley shared a goalless draw with Brighton.

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