Return of the Jedi: Villa and Jedinak secure Premier League promotion
Mile Jedinak’s Aston Villa will be playing Premier League football again after beating Derby County 2-1 in Tuesday morning’s English Championship Play-off Final (AEST).
The former Caltex Socceroos skipper – who had netted a crucial penalty in Villa’s semi-final shootout triumph over West Bromwich Albion on May 15 – was an unused substitute at Wembley, as Dean Smith’s side ended a three-year absence from English football’s top flight.
Villa were comfortably beaten by Fulham in last season’s Play-off Final but would not be denied promotion this time in what is often described as world football's 'richest game', taking a 44th-minute foothold through Anwar El Ghazi and doubling the advantage shortly into the second half via John McGinn.
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Martyn Waghorn pulled a goal back for Frank Lampard’s side late but Villa held on to clinch victory in a match estimated to be worth $312 million.
“It feels right that Villa are in the Premier League, the history and the size of the club, the fans it has – I believe it is a Premier League club and that’s not me being a supporter,” said manager Dean Smith, who took the reins from ex-boss Steve Bruce when the Villans were placed 14th in early October.
“But we’ve done some hard years trying to get back into the Premier League. We’ve fallen on hard times. Last season was very tough for everyone who went through defeat here against Fulham.
“They asked me to take on the job, it was two of Steve Bruce’s signings who scored the winning goals, so every credit to him. But we work very hard every day and the potential with the owners that we have is massive.”
Villa will join Championship winners Norwich and runners-up Sheffield United in the Premier League next season.
Jedinak featured 18 times (including Play-Off appearances) across the Championship season for Villa, primarily from centre back.