It's been four years, but Burnley have officially sealed their promotion back to the Premier League.
The Premier League announced the news on Twitter on Monday:
Buoyed by the league's best defense, Burnley finished in second place behind Leicester City but comfortably ahead of the rest of the Championship pack, avoiding the league's four-game play-off to determine the final squad to reach England's top division.
For a team that finished eighth, 13th and 11th respectively in their last three seasons in the Championship, the 2013-14 team has more than surpassed expectations this season. But Derby County's keeper, Lee Grant—one of the clubs heading to the Championship's playoff—isn't among those surprised by Burnley's strong season, as he told Steve Nicholson of the Derby Telegraph:
Huge credit to them for what they have done this season. It doesn’t surprise me hugely the season they are having. It may have surprised a few on the outside but not me. I know the quality they have there and the strong management team in place.
I’m pleased for them but on the flip side, I am disappointed we have not managed to quite be in a position to be favourites to finish in second place.
The squad was led by Danny Ings and Sam Vokes this season, who each finished with more than 20 goals, while Kieran Trippier was a surprising table-setter from his full-back position, leading the team in assists.
But this team is headed to the Premier League because they played a stingy brand of defense, a style of play they'll need to build upon when the more talented top-flight teams come calling.
And now they'll receive a sizeable boost to their budget with the revenue shared between the Premier League teams.
Staying up for more than one season won't be easy for the club, but the former Burnley man—one who helped lead Burnley to promotion in 2009—and current Fleetwood Town manager Graham Alexander thinks the club is up to the task, as he told Suzanne Geldard of the Lancashire Telegraph:
The year we had in the Premier League will stand the people in charge of the club in good stead if they do it, which I’m sure they will. It is a big difference, and you never know how big a difference until you’re there. But they’ve got that experience behind them now so that when they go up, hopefully they will stay up.
Sean Dyche will be under no illusions as to how difficult it will be, but it’s difficult to get promoted.
Burnley will be bolstered by the fact that Hull City and Crystal Palace are well on their way to retaining their positions in the Premier League after winning promotion last season (though Cardiff City's odds aren't looking great).
With a strong summer in the transfer market, the confidence they surely built in the 2013-14 Championship season and a return of their strong defense, Burnley should mount a strong challenge next season to remain in the top division.