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Aston Villa delights Prince William by securing EPL return

May 27, 2019
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Britain's Prince William, second left, and former footballer John Carew, right, celebrate after Aston Villa's Anwar El Ghazi scores his side's first goal of the game during the English Championship Play-off soccer final between Aston Villa and Derby County at Wembley Stadium, London, Monday, May 27, 2019. (Mike Egerton/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — Prince William punched the air in joy inside Wembley Stadium as Aston Villa secured a return to the English Premier League and a future windfall of at least 170 million pounds on Monday.

Villa beat Derby 2-1 in the League Championship playoff final, which is the most lucrative one-off match in world soccer.

Watching from a VIP box high in the stadium, Prince William — one of Villa’s most famous fans — saw Anwar El Ghazi put the team ahead in the 44th minute with a diving header. John McGinn then got in front of Derby goalkeeper Kelle Roos to nod in a second goal in the 59th.

Substitute Jack Marriott pulled a goal back for Derby in the 81st to set up a tense finish but Villa held on to join Norwich and Sheffield United in getting promoted from the second tier.

“It means the world to go up, we know where this club belongs,” said Villa captain Jack Grealish, who was at the club when it was relegated in 2016 but stayed at Villa Park despite being linked to some of England’s top teams.

“I’ve stayed here and we’re back there now. I’ve led my boyhood team to the Premier League.”

Accounting firm Deloitte values promotion at 170 million pounds ($215 million) because of prize money as well as broadcast and commercial revenue from being in the Premier League. Villa can look forward to a cash bonanza of about 300 million pounds ($380 million) should it avoid relegation from the Premier League in its first season back.

The loss denied former Chelsea and England midfielder Frank Lampard, who is in his first year in charge of Derby, a return to the Premier League as a manager. Instead it was his long-time teammate John Terry, who is assistant coach at Villa, who was all smiles in the technical area with the club’s manager, Dean Smith.

Villa won 10 straight games from March 2 to April 22 to secure a spot in the playoffs, then beat West Bromwich Albion in the semifinals.

Smith faces a busy summer trying to keep some of his key players. Grealish likely will be in demand again, while three players who have been at Villa on loan — Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth) — are all heading back to their parent clubs as it stands.

Villa, the European champion in 1982, was one of the mainstays in the Premier League before relegation, having been in the top flight since 1987.

“This club has to be in the Premier League,” El Ghazi said, “and it deserves to be there.”

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