The feeling of elation at gaining promotion to the Premier League with Stoke City was as much a sense of relief for all of our players, staff, supporters and wonderful owners.
The club hadn’t been in the top flight for 23 years. Unfortunately, that day’s 0-0 draw had meant Leicester City slipped into the third tier of English football. It confirmed how great an achievement we had just performed in going in the opposite direction.
We had a wonderful group of players, and goals were spread throughout that team. It had been a wonderful season and, without question, we deserved to be promoted.
I had spent most of my career managing in the lower leagues, so the opportunity to pit my wits against some of the great clubs, managers and players was really exciting – but I knew challenging, too. My management would be tested against clubs that would have an advantage over me in resources – both on and off the pitch – and also an advantage in the experience of managing at the top level.
I never, ever frequent the boardroom after games – I always make a point of seeing the opposing manager and making sure they are shown the same hospitality that would befit board members from the opposing club. That meant that my first chance to share a drink with my chairman Peter Coates and his family was after we had both left the ground, and at a local pub close to where we both lived.
From that point onwards, I worked very hard trying to gauge exactly what was needed to succeed in our new adventure in the Premier League. I made two phone calls – one to Sir Alex Ferguson (below), and one to Steve Coppell.