WHEN Gareth Ainsworth was released from his beloved Blackburn Rovers as an 18-year-old he admitted tears were shed.

Now nearly 30 years on, Ainsworth could well be returning to Ewood Park but this time as manager of Wycombe Wanderers after guiding the Chairboys to the Championship for the first time in their history.

The popular Blackburn-born manager admitted it was beyond his "wildest dreams" following Monday’s 2-1 play-off victory over Oxford United at Wembley – with former Accrington Stanley defender Joe Jacobson netting the winner.

It was a far cry from the days when Don Mackay told him he would not be offered a professional contract by his boyhood club in 1991.

“When I was released from Blackburn my dad told me that he still thought I would make it,” Ainsworth told the Lancashire Telegraph back in 2013 when he announced he was hanging up his boots at the age of 40 after a long and colourful career.

“The only regret would be not playing for Blackburn’s first team, but apart from that I wouldn’t change anything about my career.”

Fast forward to Monday night, the former Preston, QPR, Port Vale and Wimbledon winger certainly didn’t have anything to regret. “Amazing, amazing feeling to take this club into the Championship is just surreal, it really is, it’s beyond my wildest dreams,” said Ainsworth, who went to St Augustine’s School in Billington.

“We can’t afford the best footballing players, but heart and determination and that was a Wycombe performance. I’m so, so proud of the boys. They just ground it out, I can’t believe it. I still can’t believe that we are a Championship club.”

Ainsworth suffered penalty shoot-out heartbreak with Wanderers on his previous visit to Wembley, in the League Two play-off final in 2015, but was able to create history this time following a cagey game.

He said: “Rochdale and Accrington were down there with us, but we were right down there budget-wise. I had nine players on the first day of pre-season and two of them were trialists.”

Match-winner Jacobson had two loan spells with Stanley before signing permanently in 2011.

“It’s ridiculous. I can’t believe what we’ve done,” he said. “To go back 11 months, first day of pre-season, nine players, favourites for relegation.

“Where we’ve got to now is ridiculous. It’s stupid what we’ve done . But that’s us, that’s Wycombe to a ‘T’.”