AFTER a year to forget personally, Christian Dailly certainly enjoyed a day to remember at the Millennium Stadium as West Ham secured their return to the Premiership.
The Scottish international suffered personal tragedy in October and spent virtually the entire season battling back from a serious knee injury, so it was fitting that he appeared as a 74th minute substitute and help carry the team through to an unforgettable victory.
The inspirational defender came on for match-winner Bobby Zamora to help protect the Hammers 1-0 lead and performed in typically resolute style, making several vital tackles and winning header after header in front of the back four.
Afterwards, he could barely contain his delight at ending the
campaign on such a high.
"It was great to get on and be involved in such a terrific achievement," he said. "It's been a dreadful year for me, really, not just because of the injury but also because I lost my father Dan back in October.
"He was here 12 months ago in perfect health and then all of a sudden he was gone. That put everything into perspective for me and I feel that this is a great reward, because I've put so much into trying to get back this season."
As one of the few surviving members from the team that was relegated at Birmingham City on the final day of the season in May 2003, Christian has endured the full extent of our battle to get back, and says the experiences of the past two years make the triumph even sweeter.
"It's brilliant for everybody connected with the club and we're back where we should be. It's been a difficult season in a lot of ways - a difficult two years in fact - but we've come good in the end and the last dozen or so games have proved that we deserve this.
"From start to finish I felt we were the better side against Preston - there was a little scare with that free-kick right at the end but otherwise we kept them at bay throughout. Tactically it was spot on and the manager must take a lot of credit for getting it right.
"Now we've got the chance to compete against the best again and I just can't begin to explain how great that feels."