Fulham defender Tim Ream says he and his teammates are ready to “prove ourselves” in the Premier League after beating Aston Villa 1-0 in the promotion playoff final at Wembley on Saturday.
The United States international helped Fulham keep a clean sheet despite his center-back partner Denis Odoi’s sending off in the 70th minute.
Ream’s only Premier League experience came in 13 games for Bolton Wanderers in 2012, after he left the New York Red Bulls in MLS. And after seven season in the Championship, he said he was already looking forward to the next test.
“I don’t know that you can describe what the feeling is right now and the emotions, and the release of everything that’s gone on this season, in the second half of the season,” Ream Said. “There’s not many better feelings than this.
“It’s incredible. I had a taste of it what, six years ago now, and I wanted to get back ever since. It’s the top of the top. Now to be back there and to get a change again to prove ourselves against some of the best in the world, there’s nothing better.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic recognised that his team will have to invest in their side to ensure survival after winning promotion.
“I personally must be satisfied. This is our project, this Fulham is my club, my staff. We needed two and a half years,” he said. “We must adapt ourselves; we know what is ahead of us. The Premier League is the most competitive league and we must be clever.
“That [January] transfer window was successful and gave an important push for the team. We must show ambition to be a Premier League team, show ambition with [transfer] money too.
“We believe we can play this way, but we must know what characters and what players we need. We must try and dominate against teams we believe we can dominate.”
Tom Cairney’s 23rd-minute goal was the difference as Fulham capped a remarkable turnaround in the second half of their season to join Wolverhampton and Cardiff in the Premier League next season.
“A lot of people said we had to change the way we play and gave us a lot of stick,” he said. “I’ve been playing all season not fully fit. I just need the summer to rest get fully fit then take on the Premier League.
“We knew we weren’t going to shrink in this environment. In my eyes in the last two years we have been the best team in this league.”
Cairney added: “It feels like an out of body feeling. I got a feeling that they wouldn’t score and it would be our year. It’s a dream come true. I believe what we are doing here is special and I’ve said for a while that we’ve been playing Premier League football in the Championship.
“We went on a 23-game unbeaten run. We’ve been the best team in the league and although we didn’t get automatic promotion, we blew teams away.”
Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored 12 league goals after joining on loan from Newcastle midseason, spoke of his pride after giving everything.
“We are very proud and proud of Fulham today. Unbelievable day,” the 23-year-old Serbian said. “We score a goal and today we get a red card. I’m so tired right now I don’t feel my legs “We are really happy and proud.”