BLACKPOOL manager Neil Critchley says winning promotion to the Championship justified his decision to leave Liverpool.

Critchley walked away from his job as the Reds’ under-23s manager in March 2020 and, in his first full season in charge, took the Seasiders back to the second tier for the first time in six years with a 2-1 League One play-off final win over Lincoln.

The day started horribly for them when Ollie Turton put through his own net after just 48 seconds, but two Kenny Dougall goals either side of half-time deservedly won it for Blackpool.

They complete the 24-team Championship line-up for next season, which will include Cherries following their play-off loss to Brentford.

Cherries last faced Blackpool during the 2014-15 campaign, romping to 6-1 and 4-0 victories, the latter seeing Brett Pitman bag a hat-trick.

Critchley was in a secure job at the Anfield club but wanted to test himself and winning promotion has exceeded his expectations.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would end at Wembley with an occasion like this,” said the 42-year-old.

“It was a reason why I left Liverpool because I wanted to taste senior football management, the highs and lows, the journey and it has been a special day.

"They say there is no better way than going up than winning at Wembley. I would have swapped with Grant McCann or Darren Ferguson at Hull or Peterborough after 48 seconds but I can assure you when the final whistle went I have never felt emotion like that before and it was an incredible feeling.

"It is a great, great season. I couldn’t be prouder.”

Blackpool’s plans for the showpiece game were thrown into disarray when striker Ellis Simms suffered an injury in the final training session.

Critchley said he had to revise his plan of attack.

“We have had a lot to deal with in the last 24 hours because of circumstances out of our control,” he added.

“Ellis has been a top performer, even recently the goals he has scored and the way he has led the line.

“We practised all week with him in the team, for him to suffer that the last kick of the last session the day before Wembley was heartbreak for him and us.

“We have had to do that during the season, we have had to be adaptable. The reward the players have got is incredible. We are deserving of going up.”

2021-22 Championship: Barnsley, Birmingham, Blackburn, Blackpool, Cherries, Bristol City, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Fulham, Huddersfield, Hull, Luton, Middlesbrough, Millwall, Nottingham Forest, Peterborough, Preston, QPR, Reading, Sheffield United, Stoke, Swansea, West Brom.