CHESTER City fans savoured one of the proudest moments in the club's history when their beloved Blues were promoted back into the Football League.

The emotional occasion produced tears of joy at the Deva Stadium on Saturday instead of the tears of sadness which had marked their relegation into the Conference four years earlier.

Fans mobbed players who were grinning like Cheshire cats after beating Scarborough 1-0, assuring them of an automatic place in the third division. Happy dads, with excited children atop shoulders, jumped up and down on the spot as Status Quo's Rockin' All Over The World blasted out over the public address system.

Players, followed by hundreds of youngsters, paraded around the ground holding the championship trophy aloft, which was presented by Chester-based Conference chairman Bill King. Chants rang out like 'Top of the league - we're 'avin' a laugh' and 'Chester are the football kings'.

Later, supporters painted the town blue with proud fans encouraging drinkers outside bars to 'Support your local team' and passing cars, with flags trailing from windows, tooted their horns. Pubs and clubs witnessed a carnival atmosphere not normally associated with conservative Chester.

A poignant moment was when a huge blue and white Chester City FC banner was unfurled underneath the Eastgate clock, which almost stretched the width of the street, while below a handful of faithful fans reflected on the day.

Loyal supporter Walter Johnson, who has backed Chester for almost 80 years, presented a rose bowl to club chairman Stephen Vaughan, together with Betty Challinor who has been watching the Blues for a mere 60 years!

Mr Johnson, 84, of Bridge Trafford, who later enjoyed a quiet celebration, said: 'Four years ago when we got relegated, that was really a low. It was expressed by the genuine supporters that that point was the lowest of the low. If we had carried on like we were, I don't think we would have had a football team.

'All the credit must go to Stephen Vaughan. He rescued us from the depths and it was really down to him and Mark Wright and others connected with the club that we got the promotion that we richly deserved. We've played 41 games and only lost three.'

Three generations of his family were represented at the Deva on Saturday. Grandson Gary was lucky enough to catch the Nationwide Conference flag hurled into the crowd.

Mr Johnson, a season ticket-holder for 50 years, recollected how he began watching City when his father, Walter snr, owner of a long-running milk business, took him when he was small.

'As I was waiting to go in on Saturday, I noticed some of the lads holding their dads' hands and that's how old I was when I started supporting them, and have done ever since,' he said.

'We were in the Cheshire County League in those days of course. We didn't get league status and get into the third division until 1931 and I remember one of the highlights was when we beat Fulham in the FA Cup. We beat them 5-0 at Sealand Road in 1933.

'Another highlight was when we drew with Chelsea, that was in the Cup and we got 20,000 at the ground. We beat teams like Leeds in those days. And we got knocked out by Manchester United at United in the FA Cup and got pipped by Aston Villa.'

Mr Johnson hopes Chester can emulate the success of Doncaster Rovers, who beat Chester in the play-offs last season to gain promotion to the third division and have now won promotion into the second.

Mrs Challinor, 76, who presented Vaughan's wife Pat with a bouquet, said of the weekend success story: 'It meant an awful lot. I've been going a long time but it was the first time I've ever experienced anything like that. It was really wonderful.'

And she contrasted the experience with the 'dreadful day' four years ago when the Blues lost to Peterborough at the Deva Stadium and were relegated from the league.

'This team have done brilliantly for the whole season and it's been a real team effort from Mr Vaughan, Mark Wright, Steve Bleasdale and the whole operation, including the supporters.'

Mrs Challinor explained that it was because of a boyfriend back in the 1940s that she ended up becoming a fan of Chester.

'I had a boyfriend and he said would I like to come down to the football match. I said 'yes, if you like' and that's really how it started.'

Last year, Mrs Challinor, of Vernon Road, lost her husband Cyril who had also supported the Blues for more than 40 years. One of her two sons, Peter, and her two grandsons, Alan and Andrew Povey, are also big fans. 'One of them has been going since he was three with me,' she said.