Blackpool boss Gary Bowyer has spoken of his pride at the way his players came through adversity to clinch their historic promotion.
The Seasiders sealed a record-breaking fifth play-off triumph with Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Exeter City at Wembley.
The win caps off a fine season for Bowyer and the players, who have managed to steer the club back in the right direction after two successive relegations.
It has been far from easy and they had to overcome issues both on and off the pitch, which makes their achievement all the more extraordinary according to Bowyer.
He said: “The players just concentrated on the games, despite everything that’s going on around them, and they’ve done that again at Wembley
“Exeter are a great footballing team and you saw that. They put us on the backfoot and we had to change our shape, then we lost our captain.
“We lost our captain (Andy Taylor) in the last leg and we wanted to give him a go but he broke down during the week, so we had to recover from that.
“And then to lose Tom Aldred during the first half was a big blow. It was like a scene out of A&E because of the changes we had to keep making.
“But again the players deserve an enormous amount of credit because we changed our system, and the flexibility and adaptability they’ve shown, especially in the last three months, has been great.”
Brad Potts got Blackpool off to the perfect start when he opened the scoring after just three minutes.
But Aldred’s injury forced Bowyer to shuffle the deck and Exeter equalised shortly before the interval.
Few could have predicted what would follow, as Pool mostly controlled the second half before Mark Cullen scored the all-important winner.
Bowyer added: “We were on the back foot and we were a little disorganised after they scored. Exeter’s system was causing us problems, so we had to reorganise.
“Our half-time team talk was just about putting people into place and defining roles and responsibilities, and the players carried it out to a tee. They were immense.
“We just said no two halves are the same and we’ve got to go and show what we’re capable of. We just gave them guidelines and, fair play, they carried it out. They were brilliant.”
Bowyer also singled out Cullen, who continued his fine run of form to net the decisive goal that sent Blackpool back to League One.
The Pool boss added: “It was a massive team effort but Mark has made a massive sacrifice for the team because we asked him to play in midfield. I’m delighted for him to get his goal and he really found his form at the right time for us.”