Burnley manager Sean Dyche says he “never blinked” as questions were raised over his side’s credentials as Championship promotion contenders.
A Sam Vokes header in a 1-0 win against QPR at Turf Moor on Monday guaranteed the Clarets an immediate return to the top flight with one game to spare.
Burnley are unbeaten in 22 league games since losing 3-0 at Hull on Boxing Day.
“We’ve worked so hard,” he told BBC Radio Lancashire. “It’s been a different league this year.”
Burnley will clinch the Championship title with victory in their final game at already-relegated Charlton on Saturday.
Following Brighton’s 1-1 draw with Derby earlier in the day, Burnley went into the game against QPR knowing a win would seal promotion.
Either Brighton or Middlesbrough will be promoted automatically alongside the Clarets – they play each other at the Riverside on Saturday, with a draw good enough for Middlesbrough.
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Dyche ‘could not be more proud’
Former Watford manager Dyche, who masterminded Burnley’s return to the Premier League just 359 days after they left it, admitted the Championship had been a different division to the one they were last promoted from in 2014.
“People have been having a real go financially, putting money into it,” he said. “We’ve balanced the books and been successful again. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Burnley’s success comes on the back of profits of £30.1m reported in March, following their 2014-15 season in the Premier League.
Dyche lost the services of striker Danny Ings to Liverpool at the start of the season, for a tribunal-set fee which could rise to £8m.
Burnley’s long undefeated run to seal promotion came after an indifferent first half of the campaign.
“It’s been a much different challenge this time,” Dyche added. “The expectation rises from everyone, the money available to the club for its future – all of the things that it brings.
“The mentality of the players has been firm all year. We were questioned heavily around Christmas, but I never blinked.
“I knew what we were about, I knew the group we’d got, I knew the mentality and I knew we could go all the way.
“Last time we were under the radar, it was a fairytale. This one was organised, it was business-like and it was well-fashioned from all involved, especially the players.”
What promotion means to the players
Dyche’s sentiments were shared by striker Andre Gray, who has scored 22 league goals for the Clarets since his club-record move from Brentford in August.
“It’s crazy, it’s been a hard-fought year and the last five or six games have been very tough,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.
“It was a bit nervy as we knew the Brighton result and knew we needed to win. We got over the line in the end.”
Centre-back Ben Mee, who has been an ever-present this season, added: “All the boys have been immense and everyone has contributed to this.
“We’ll enjoy this, but we want to go and win the league now. That is the next step.”