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Playoff heroes: Darren Carter

Playoff heroes: Darren Carter
© Reuters
The midfielder helped Birmingham reach the Premier League in 2002.

Nerveless teenager Darren Carter made himself a hometown hero when firing Birmingham back into the top flight after a 16-year absence.

Few could have foreseen the Blues returning to the big time early in the 2001-02 season, with under-fire Trevor Francis getting the axe in October after an underwhelming start to the campaign.

Mick Mills and Jim Barron took temporary charge and Birmingham were well outside the top six when Steve Bruce belatedly arrived that December.

The managerial change brought about an improvement in fortunes at St Andrew's, which was welcoming play-off football for the fourth successive season after the former Manchester United captain steered them home fifth.

After the first leg ended 1-1, Millwall were narrowly seen off 1-0 in London as the Blues finally overcame their struggles that had seen them fall at the semi-final stage in each of the previous three seasons.

Norwich awaited at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, where 18-year-old substitute Carter wrote his name into club folklore.

A tense clash ended goalless after 90 minutes, with Iwan Roberts breaking the deadlock moments after extra-time got under way in Wales.

Geoff Horsfield got Birmingham back into it and took the play-off final into a penalty shootout, where callow midfielder Carter showed remarkable maturity to hammer home the fourth and vital strike to send the blue hordes wild.

Bruce expressed his delight for Carter and his "Blue through and through" family a year on from the midfielder watching his beloved Birmingham lose on penalties to Liverpool in the Worthington Cup final at the same venue.

"I won't sleep for days now," Carter said. "It's unbelievable. Birmingham fans have been waiting for this for a very long time.

"I was a fan and I know how much it means to them. This season is my first and to be playing in the Premiership next year is absolutely unbelievable."

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Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber gestures during an interview at the club's training ground in March 2019
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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Leeds UnitedLeeds37218856302671
2West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom371913564372770
3Fulham371810952381464
4Brentford371791164333160
5Nottingham ForestNott'm Forest371612948381060
6Preston North EndPreston37168135045556
7Bristol City371510125153-255
8Millwall37131594440454
9Cardiff CityCardiff37131595250254
10Blackburn RoversBlackburn371411125245753
11Swansea CitySwansea371314104645153
12Derby CountyDerby371312124949051
13Queens Park RangersQPR37148155862-450
14Reading37139154642448
15Sheffield WednesdaySheff Weds37139154649-348
16Birmingham CityBirmingham371211144857-947
17Stoke CityStoke37126194955-642
18Huddersfield TownHuddersfield37119174558-1342
19Middlesbrough37914143747-1041
20Wigan AthleticWigan371011163850-1241
21Hull City37118184963-1441
22Charlton AthleticCharlton37109184454-1039
23Luton TownLuton37105224371-2835
24Barnsley37810194262-2034

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