London: Cardiff City were promoted to the English Premier League on Tuesday after a 0-0 draw at home to Charlton Athletic guaranteed the Welsh side a top-two finish in the Championship (second division). Cardiff, who have agonisingly missed out in the playoffs for the last three seasons, will play in the top flight next season for the first time since 1962.
Their promotion was greeted with joyous scenes at the final whistle with players and fans celebrating on the pitch. "There are a lot of smiley happy faces and it's going to be a long night in Cardiff I think," manager Malky Mackay told Sky Sports against a deafening noise at the Cardiff City stadium. "I'm delighted for these people. There are a lot of people here who have gone through a lot of hard times and this is for them," added the Scotsman who took over the team in 2011.
"The staff of the football club, the back office, the training ground staff, the directors and our owners, these players and these fans and the people of Cardiff, it's a night for them," added the former Watford boss. The principality now has two representatives in the Premier League with Cardiff joining arch-rivals Swansea City, who won the English League Cup final this season.
"I am lost for words right now. We thoroughly deserve that if I'm honest," Cardiff defender Mark Hudson told the BBC. "The consistency we've had this year, top since November, and now we're promoted. We'll celebrate now then go for that title." Cardiff are well placed to claim the silverware, with 84 points from 43 matches giving them a seven-point lead over second-placed Hull City with three games left.
Hull lost 1-0 at Wolverhampton Wanderers, who moved out of the relegation zone, while third-placed Watford remain six points off the second automatic promotion spot after going down by the same score at losing FA Cup semi-finalists Millwall. Brighton drew 0-0 at Peterborough to move into fourth place on goal difference with 66 points above sliding Crystal Palace who slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Ipswich Town.
Leicester City returned to the playoff zone by replacing opponents Bolton Wanderers after a 3-2 win took them to 64 points, one point above the visitors and late challengers Nottingham Forest, who lost 1-0 at Middlesbrough. At the other end of the table, Bristol City's six seasons in the Championship ended when a 1-0 defeat at home to Birmingham City consigned them to relegation to League One.
Cardiff have flirted with success in recent seasons. As well as missing out on promotion through their playoff heartache, they were beaten in the FA Cup final in 2008 and by Liverpool in last season's League Cup final on penalties. The near-misses have come against a backdrop of financial instability, although the financial riches of the Premier League are sure to put the club on a sounder footing.
Cardiff were on the brink of administration and escaped a winding-up petition at the High Court in 2010 after settling a 1.9 million pounds tax bill shortly after the club was taken over by billionaire Malaysian Vincent Tan. Tan has sought to increase the club's marketability, especially in Asia, although his decision to change their traditional blue kit to red sparked controversy.
Nicknamed the Bluebirds, having played in blue for over 100 years, Cardiff also now have a red badge featuring a dragon but opposition to the colour change has faded with the Welsh club now back in the top flight for the first time in 51 years.