Michael Duff has insisted the hard work put in throughout the whole season has been the most satisfying aspect of Burnley’s breathtaking promotion back to the Premier League.
The Clarets sealed access back to the big time after a four-year absence with a brilliant 2-0 victory over FA Cup holders and local rivals Wigan Athletic on Easter Monday.
Ashley Barnes and Michael Kightly scored the all-important goals as Burnley secured a return to the top-flight of English football for only the second time in the last 39 years.
And Duff – the most experienced player in the team – believes the success represents a reward for all the effort the team have delivered since pre-season way back last July, despite having been constantly written off throughout the campaign.
The centre back said shortly after the pitch invasion on Monday: “There’s a lot of hard work that go into the 10-15 minutes that you’ve just seen there.
“When you get to my age, you appreciate those moments. Luckily, I’ve had a few promotions and you take it all in because those ten minutes encapsulate the whole season.
“The boys have stuck close together and it’s great.
“I don’t think there’s anyone in the country that gave us a pray! And then even when we did start well, people kept writing us off and saying we’d go away. And we didn’t!
“You look at some of the teams and budgets that are in and around us and they were falling away!
“We’ve stayed together with such a small group and it’s been magnificent, really.”
The Northern Irishman remains the only survivor of the squad that last clinched promotion to the Premier League just short of five years ago.
And he revealed advice from former Burnley hero Graham Alexander was the reason behind him celebrating the achievement slightly differently to his younger and – in his words – very talented teammates, including captain and defensive partner Jason Shackell.
Duff added: “It makes it special because I’m thirty-six and I realise it might be the last chance which is why, for me personally, it meant so much in the run-in.
“I’ve spoken to Grezza a lot as he was thirty-six, too, when we got promoted last time.
“He told me to take it in because it’s an awesome thing and I think most lads won’t have realised what they’ve done!
“That’s the thing with youth and the gaffer got that mentality to just go and play and it’s been authentic with the ‘game by game’ approach.
“When we beat Blackpool on Friday, the message was: ‘right, get yourself ready, we’re in tomorrow and on Sunday and we go again against Wigan’.
“There were no thoughts of Derby slipping up and it didn’t come into our mentality because we don’t worry about what other people do. We look after ourselves.
“I’ve said before that it’s enjoyable when you play every week with a group of very, very talented footballers. If you can’t enjoy it, you’re never going to do!
“I feel I’ve had a decent season and I’ve enjoyed playing next to Shacks.
“I think we complement each other quite well and he’s been magnificent. He deserves all the plaudits he gets as does everybody else in the team.”
Finally, Duff also compared the two Burnley promotions he has been part of.
And the 36-year-old was keen to share credit with the supporters and the whole town for this season’s success.
He said: “The first time was special because it came out of the blue and this year maybe even more so because of some of the teams and budgets in this league now.
“I think people thought that was it now and almost expected us to be in the relegation battle. That’s why it’s some achievement.
“It just shows what you can do with a bit of hard work and togetherness which almost sums up the town mentality.
“I think that’s why the supporters have come on board because they’ve seen that we work our socks off in every game and every day in training.
“The fans have been brilliant. We’ve given them a bit to cheer this year and it does mean a lot when they come on board and stick with us.
“They’ve been as good as the players.”