* Return to top flight for first time since 2004
* Promotion set to bring big financial rewards
April 5 (Reuters) - Leicester City returned to the Premier
League for the first time since 2004 despite not kicking a ball
on Saturday after Queens Park Rangers and Derby County both
Leicester, who beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 on Friday after
goals by Riyad Mahrez and Anthony Knockaert, have 89 points from
40 matches, and are guaranteed to finish in the top two places
in the second-tier Championship after results went their way.
QPR lost to Bournemouth 2-1 while Derby went down 1-0 to
Middlesbrough, meaning neither side can overhaul Nigel Pearson's
side with six matches remaining.
"It's unexpected. I didn't think the results would go our
way today," Pearson told BBC Radio Leicester.
"I think it's a relief for a lot of people. It's been a
tough couple of years in the sense that we've been trying to get
back into the top flight and it's never easy."
Leicester are unbeaten in 21 matches, and lead second-placed
Burnley by nine points.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, son of former Denmark and
Manchester United great Peter, said on Twitter: "Premier league!
So proud of all the boys and everyone at the club!!!"
"It's a day for celebration. These type of things don't
happen very often, but there are still six games and we still
want to win the league so we have to keep working and keep
going," Schmeichel told the BBC.
"I can't speak highly enough of Nigel - I really can't," he
said. "From day one he has been brilliant. He has his way of
doing things. He took a bit of time to change things around and
mould it to how he wanted it - and this season he has got it."
"The Premier League is where I want to be - there is no
question. I enjoy playing at Leicester. At the moment it is not
really up to me but I hope to stay," added Schmeichel, who
joined the club in 2011 but is nearly out of contract.
Former Leicester and England striker Gary Lineker, who
scored 95 goals for the Foxes, tweeted: "Leicester City are
promoted to the Premier League. A sentence I've been waiting to
say for 10 years."
Promotion to the Premier League brings vast financial
rewards, with a 2013 report by the Sports Business Group at
Deloitte saying it could be worth up to 120 million pounds, much
of that from broadcast rights.
Even immediate relegation triggers parachute payments of
around 60 million pounds over four years.
Leicester, owned by Thai businessman Vichai
Srivaddhanaprabha, missed out on automatic promotion last season
after winning only two of their final 13 matches before being
knocked out in the playoffs by Watford after Knockaert missed a
last-minute penalty and their opponents scored at the other end
in a dramatic finish.
They have lost only five matches this season, going from
strength to strength on the back of leading scorers David Nugent
(18) and Jamie Vardy (16), and after numerous managerial changes
since their last stint in the Premier League, have found a level
of consistency under Pearson.
Leading Championship standings
P W D L F A PTS GD
1 Leicester City 40 27 8 5 76 38 89 38
2 Burnley 40 22 14 4 65 34 80 31
3 Queens Park Rangers 40 20 10 10 49 35 70 14
4 Derby County 40 20 9 11 69 46 69 23
5 Wigan Athletic 40 19 10 11 54 39 67 15
6 Reading 40 17 12 11 61 46 63 15
(Reporting by Josh Reich, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Martyn
- Sports & Recreation
- Premier League
- Leicester City
- Queens Park Rangers
- Derby County
- Kasper Schmeichel
- Anthony Knockaert