London: Fulham hit the Premier League promotion jackpot as Tom Cairney fired his 10-man team to a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final yesterday.
Cairney struck with a cool finish in the first half at Wembley to earn Fulham a top-flight place worth an estimated £160 million ($213 million) windfall.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side played the last 20 minutes with 10 men after defender Denis Odoi was sent off for a studs-up lunge on Jack Grealish.
But they defended heroically to end the club’s four-year exile from the Premier League. Fulham’s financial windfall from increased revenue could rise to £280 million if they go on to survive for one season among the elite. Yet even their American billionaire owner Shadid Khan knows it is the prestige of playing Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool next season that matters far more than the extra cash in his bulging bank account.
It was an unforgettable evening for Fulham, who were making their first appearance at Wembley since losing the 1975 FA Cup final against West Ham.
And Khan was celebrating from the stands of what could soon be his personal property as he negotiates a deal to buy the iconic stadium from the Football Association.
There was only misery for Villa as they missed out on promotion on the 36th anniversary of the club’s famous European Cup final victory over Bayern Munich.
Villa, owned by Chinese businessman Tony Xia, paid the price for a limp first half and are faced with a third successive season outside the Premier League, a stark reality given a reduction in the parachute payments could lead to the sale of their stars.
Villa had received a good luck message from Hollywood actor Tom Hanks, a long-distance fan of the team.