Joe Bryan has revealed how Fulham prepared themselves for the play-offs at an early stage and were confident of winning promotion via that route.
Bryan was the unlikely match-winner at Wembley on Tuesday night, scoring twice as the Cottagers sealed an immediate return to the Premier League with a 2-1 victory against west London rivals Brentford.
The 26-year-old left-back explained Fulham felt they were destined for the play-off after the season resumed in June with back-to-back defeats to automatic promotion rivals Brentford and Leeds.
The Bees, on the other hand, remained in the hunt for second place until conceding a stoppage-time goal against Barnsley on the final day of the season.
Bryan told talkSPORT: "The club gave us a lot of work to do over lockdown and we all worked extremely hard so to come back with two poor results against Brentford and Leeds was disappointing, but then we knew there would be a high possibility that we would be in the play-offs.
"Some people don't like the play-offs and say it's a disappointment after missing out on automatic promotion and that you don't want the extra three matches, but after that we knew there was a strong chance that could be our route and we were ready for it and knew we would win.
"It's a great way to go up. We've experienced it twice now and everyone is buzzing. You live for memories like that during your football career – it's the best part of it. It's just a shame the fans couldn't be there to enjoy it again too."
Fulham are the first club to win the Championship play-off final twice in three years and Bryan believes they are better equipped this time around than they were the last time they secured promotion in 2018.
"Last time we went up, there wasn't the right mentality in the squad," Bryan said. "There were people here who were just happy to be there in the Premier League and not graft, but this time we have a really good, young, hungry squad and a good, young, hungry manager.
"The manager inherited a club that was losing every week, a club with a losing mentality, and he's turned it around. It's a great place to be at the moment."
Following that play-off win against Aston Villa two years ago, Fulham spent recklessly under Slavisa Jokanovic – squandering over £100million on ineffective signings resulting in relegation.
Manager Scott Parker said post-match on Tuesday night that the club have learned from those mistakes and it seems he will have the backing of owner Tony Khan this summer.
Khan tweeted: "We're back in the Premier League; we worked hard for it! Last summer with the scouts & Scott, I worked to assemble a team to get us promoted, we have a great squad now & I promise we'll work hard again in this window to stay up! Come on Fulham!"