HERO Eddie Howe admitted he was delighted his players had proved him wrong after revealing he initially thought promotion was going to be “too big an ask”.

The manager has masterminded Cherries’ remarkable elevation to English football’s third tier against a backdrop of financial uncertainty, a transfer embargo and player shortages.

Initially, though, he did not think his team would manage to defy the mounting odds. Speaking after promotion was secured with a 2-0 win at Burton Albion, he told the Echo: “I didn’t think we’d finish where we have.

“I think the expectation at the start of the season, from myself and everyone else, was to stay in the league, first and foremost.

“I just felt with the embargo and the restrictions placed upon us, it was just going to be too big an ask.

“But I’m absolutely delighted to have been proved wrong.

“They (the players) have just surprised everybody with the amount of games they’ve won this season.”

Asked when it dawned on him that promotion could be on the cards, he confessed: “I don’t think it did. I don’t think there was ever a day when we thought ‘we’re in with a chance here’.

“We kept winning games, maintained our push and people thought we’d slip away.

“We lost the lead, went to second, then to third and, at one stage, dropped to fourth and were written off again.

“But the players responded magnificently and put together a really good run at the end of the season when everybody else fell away.”

Regarded as one of the leading up-and-coming managers in the country, Howe has made national headlines with his achievements since taking charge.

But he remains keen to pass on the praise to his players.

Discussing the key factors behind Cherries’ remarkable rise, he said: “We’ve got good players – players are the ones that win the games. I don’t win the games, the players do.

“We’re lucky enough to have a goalscorer who has scored a lot of goals.

“We’ve got a very good defence – our back four and goalkeeper have been excellent. And we’ve got good players in midfield, so the make-up of our side has been very good and very strong.

“That’s why we’ve managed to maintain our push and stay where we are.”

In 16 months, Howe has steered the club away from relegation and, now, into League One. He added: “Last year was really special because dropping out of the league would’ve killed the club, so in some senses there was a lot more pressure then.

“There was a lot more at stake than this season, so that will always have a fond place in the heart because it really was touch and go whether we were going to stay alive as a football club.

“Thankfully, we have and we have gone on again. This is special because we have actually achieved something positive, rather than just maintaining our league status.”

For more reaction to Cherries' promotion, see today's Echo for our special souvenir 24-page pull-out.