Richard Buxton: Aston Villa back in the big time
Midlands side pip Lampard's Rams to return to EPL after three-season absence
|ASTON VILLA||DERBY COUNTY|
|(Anwar El Ghazi 44, John McGinn 59)||(Martyn Waghorn 82)|
Aston Villa are finally back among footballing royalty.
The £170 million (S$296.3m) windfall that Dean Smith's side will earn from a return to the English Premier League pales in comparison to the joy of their belated return of top-flight football.
In the space of six years, they went from prospective Champions League contenders to the ignominy of a three-season stint in the English Championship.
The Villans had rested on their laurels for far too long and arguably represented some of the game's less desirable traits.
Jack Grealish was a wayward 20-something, while defender Joleon Lescott openly flaunted his wealth on social media.
How the times have changed after a 2-1 win over Derby County in last night's play-off final at Wembley, where Prince William, a Villa supporter, was among the 85,826 crowd.
Grealish is now the local boy turned good, realising a life-long dream in climbing Wembley's famous steps to lift the trophy which guarantees a return to where they rightfully belong.
How times have changed for the one-time European champions.
Where they once lurched from one misguided appointment to another, they are now well-placed to reap the rewards of their long-awaited return.
Since last October, Smith has fashioned a team that is workmanlike enough to handle the rigours of the second tier, and also capable of pushing on beyond their current end goal.
Now is where the hard work truly begins.
Villa are indebted to their current raft of loanees. Tammy Abraham finished the season as the league's second-highest scorer, but it may prove difficult to prise him away from Chelsea's ever-expanding loan army, even with their new-found wealth on the back of this victory.
Signing Anwar El Ghazi, who scored the opener, for a spell in the EPL will be a greater formality, with the Holland international's contract at Lille set to expire next month.
Their opponents would have faced a similar conundrum. For all the impressive work that Frank Lampard has undertaken this season, history counted against Derby.
Not since Crystal Palace in 1996 had a Championship play-off finalist overturned a first-half deficit.
Parachuting in the former Chelsea midfielder for his first senior coaching role carried a certain amount of risk. His debut season threatened to be hampered by the fallout from the infamous "spygate" affair involving Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United.
Eliminating their long-standing rivals in the semi-final went some way to avenging that episode, but maintaining the Rams' solid start under their new boss is a greater challenge.
Harry Wilson and Mason Mount, two of this season's stand-out performers, will be starting the next pre-season with Liverpool and Chelsea respectively.
Fikayo Tomori, another of the loanees to start at Wembley, is also set to report back for duty at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard may not go down in the same vein of Pride Park folklore that the late Brian Clough continues to enjoy, but there are recurring themes.
Drafting in his former Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole bears striking similarities to Clough's signing of veteran striker Dave McKay.
True to his own character, Lampard will shape this side into one who are tougher to beat next season and are likely to make their own belated return to the EPL, possibly at the expense of Villa.
Cardiff City and Fulham, two-thirds of the teams relegated from this season's top flight, had been newcomers in August.
Villa must avoid their predecessors' mistakes in order to keep their rightful place.
ASTON VILLA: Jed Steer, Ahmed Elmohamady, Axel Tuanzebe, Tyrone Mings (Kortney Hause 86), Neil Taylor, Connor Hourihane, John McGinn, Jack Grealish, Albert Adomah (Andre Green 73) , Anwar El Ghazi, Tammy Abraham
DERBY COUNTY: Kelle Roos, Jayden Bogle, Fikayo Tomori, Richard Keogh, Ashley Cole, Tom Huddlestone (Jack Marriott 63), Bradley Johnson, Harry Wilson, Mason Mount, Tom Lawrence (Florian Jozefzoon 73), Mason Bennett (Martyn Waghorn 69)
Get The New Paper on your phone with the free TNP app. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now