What they said: Reactions to Fulham's Wembley play-off triumph over Brentford
A night of ecstacy for Fulham. A night of agony for Brentford. The Championship play-off final was deservedly won by the Whites, who were simply better on the night. Theirs was the sounder game-plan.
They stifled Brentford’s much-vaunted front three and dominated the midfield battle. Their high pressing forced the Bees to go long and there was less cohesion about their opponents.
It was a great personal triumph for Scott Parker in his first full season as he had to rebuild the confidence of a team shattered by the demoralising drip-feed of defeat in a relegation season. He was visibly emotional at the end.
Thomas Frank’s troops could not respond to the challenge and must start all over again in another Championship next season as their beautiful dream died.
Here’s what they said after Tuesday night’s Wembley final – a momentous match with huge implications for both clubs.
Scott Parker: “For all of the good players and everything you see, what makes me so happy I see a group of players who only a year ago were struggling psychologically, didn't have a mindset or mentality.
“I've driven this team every single day and what makes me proud is I stood on the touchline tonight and seen a team that represents what I've been saying over the last 12 months.
“This team has improved and improved and improved. I’m happy with where we are. We are going to need additions – we are going into the biggest league there is – but no real drastic changes.
“Some clear errors were made last time and we will learn from that, we need to learn from that. We are going into the best league in the world, the best players, it’s a brutal league and I realise the challenge ahead.
“I want to try and enjoy what we have done so far but we need to learn from those mistakes. What we’re trying to build and ingrain in the players and this football club is some core foundations. If you’re not building your club on concrete but sand, it will be that rollercoaster ride.”
Skipper Tom Cairney: “I can't put it into words. It feels special. We got written off a bit this year, no one talked about us, they talked about Brentford and Leeds.
“It shows the spirit in the dressing room, not many teams bounce back up. I knew we had that performance in us, all season when we needed to win we've done it when it mattered.
“Brentford are a great side, a pleasure to watch and these were the two best sides in the Championship play-off final.”
Two-goal match-winner Joe Bryan: “I'm not the hero, every single one of them, fans and people around us who has been with us all season is.
“We've been written off five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 times, I think I read somewhere we were supposed to be scared of them.
“We took it to them, we scored twice, they made it hard for us but they're a good team and they've been playing really well. I can't believe we made it straight back up.”
On his impudent improvisation for the free-kick goal, he added: "Scott told me to whip it near post, that was for my dad, he used to give me the eyes when he made me go in goal."
Michael Hector: “I'm buzzing. We stayed humble all week, it was special. It's such a shame there are no fans. People wrote us off but we stuck to our plan. We knew we had to go up through the play-offs and it was beautiful.
“We had to keep a high line [to put Brentford off] and make them play long-balls. They had to throw people forward.
“The best way to go up is through the play-offs but without the fans it's tough. We had to create our own atmosphere, the players did, it's a special group. We were the better team.”
Although Brentford will rightly talk up the excellence of the season, their failure on the big day was hard to take. They know chances like this don’t always come about too often.
There is also the dreadful statistic of nine failures in nine play-off attempts, including four finals.
Thomas Frank: “I would like to say congratulations to Fulham, Scott Parker, his coaching staff and everyone involved.
"Of course it's tough when you lose a final like this in a very tight game but I’m extremely proud of my players. We have gone from a mid-table club to a team who, in the league table, was the third-best team.
“We are very fine margins away from the Premier League, which is an incredible achievement from us.
“We will be back in a few weeks to have another go in the new season.”