(Reuters) -Norwich City clinched promotion to the Premier League with five games to spare on Saturday after rivals Brentford and Swansea City failed to win their Championship matches, guaranteeing Daniel Farke’s leaders one of the automatic promotion places.
The Canaries sealed an immediate return to the top flight — which has been worth at least 160 million pounds ($221.3 million) in previous seasons — having finished bottom of the Premier League in the 2019-20 campaign.
Not even a 3-1 defeat later on Saturday by playoff-chasing Bournemouth took the gloss of the achievement, sealed thanks to Brentford playing out a 0-0 stalemate with Millwall and Swansea City drawing 2-2 against bottom club Wycombe Wanderers.
Norwich boss Daniel Farke revealed that his players were following the earlier matches from their hotel rooms before the Bournemouth game but they had not expected to secure promotion without having to kick a ball themselves.
“It’s a bit surreal when you’re promoted a few hours before kick off,” the delighted German coach told Sky Sports before the evening kickoff. “You want to concentrate on the game but nevertheless it’s a great feeling.
“It’s a proud moment for the club and for us as a group. The lads have done a fantastic job. It’s such an important target and a difficult one to achieve. Then you also think of the hard work you put in.
Norwich have enjoyed an outstanding season and sit at the top of the second-tier standings with 90 points from 42 matches.
Second-placed Watford have 82 points but a 1-0 defeat at Luton Town means they still have some work to do to clinch the second automatic promotion spot.
Bournemouth moved level on 74 points with fourth-placed Brentford, who have a game in hand, while Swansea have 76.
While most sides relegated from the top flight make wholesale changes in the following campaign, Norwich trusted Farke and the core squad that took them up in 2018-19.
After picking up four points from their opening four games, Norwich made steady progress to move top of the table with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough in November and never looked back.
Their Finland striker Teemu Pukki has rediscovered his form to shoulder the scoring burden this season, recording 25 goals and three assists in 37 league appearances.
Meanwhile, centre back Ben Gibson, who joined on loan from Burnley at the start of the season, alongside Grant Hanley has provided Farke’s side with much-needed solidity in defence.
Norwich have matched the 27 wins achieved in their title-winning second division campaign of two years ago, and will aim to cross 100 points for the first time in the club’s history.
Only second-placed Watford, currently eight points behind, can deny Farke’s side the second-tier title.
Norwich took the lead against Bournemouth thanks to Emi Buendia but had Dimitrios Giannoulis red-carded shortly after.
Bournemouth’s Sam Surridge levelled early in the second half before Arnaut Danjuma gave them the lead. Lloyd Kelly sealed the win for the visitors with another sublime finish.
Despite the loss, midfielder Todd Cantwell, another important cog in the Norwich machine, said of their promotion: “It’s massive. It’s not an easy task when you get relegated to bounce straight back and today we’ve managed to do that.”
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(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru and Martyn Herman in London, Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ken Ferris)