West Ham promoted to the Premier League
Sam Allardyce has his victory, his vindication and his vengeance. As West Ham United were promoted back to the Premier League after a year's absence, scores were settled, a reputation restored.
Sacked by Blackpool after a play-off defeat in 1996, Allardyce ensured they will not make an immediate return to the top flight. Dismissed by Blackburn Rovers 18 months ago, he has regained his status as a Premier League manager while Rovers are now a Championship club.
"I've been in the Premier League for 10 years," said Allardyce.
He is back now, after a tremendous conclusion to a turbulent season.
Results have been regular, praise rarer. Much criticised during a debate if his team played "the West Ham way", Allardyce's side ended the campaign with 27 goals in their final nine games. The last of them, from Ricardo Vaz Te, was the most significant.
Sandwiching a touch from Carlton Cole, scorer of the Hammers' opener, were the contributions of two of Allardyce's former Bolton players: captain Kevin Nolan, who had hit the bar with a thunderous volley minutes earlier, and Vaz Te, signed from Barnsley in January and on hand to fire into the unguarded net. His recruitment policy has been his version of friends reunited, but it has been justified.
Few managers study the statistics quite as much as Allardyce and this was a numbers game. If the Hammers have probably had the second highest wage bill in Championship history - behind only the Newcastle United side of 2009/10 - but they won the world's richest match.
Promotion can be worth £90 million (Dh531m) and, while this was West Ham's first win at Wembley Stadium since the 1980 FA Cup final, the financial implications can outweigh the historic connotations.
"People talk about the money but the pride is so important," said co-owner David Gold. "It's vitally important this great football club is back in the Premier League."
Blackpool are not, but they played their part in a terrific game.
Goals were traded either side of half time, both beautifully taken and with certain similarities. First Cole controlled Matt Taylor's diagonal pass and, with Matt Gilks rooted to his line, lifted a half-volley over the goalkeeper.
Then, after Cole lost the ball, Matt Phillips flighted a pass from left to right for the other winger, Thomas Ince, to angle his shot across Rob Green and in. Two minutes later, Taylor cleared an Alex Baptiste effort off the line.
But West Ham rallied. They had earned 86 points in the regular league season but without much late drama. Then Vaz Te pounced in the 87th minute.
"It's 49 games [this season] and it's the first time we've won one in the last few minutes," Allardyce added.
In the game and over the season, they were given added impetus by the Portuguese Vaz Te, a January arrival whose career was going nowhere last summer before Barnsley signed him on a free transfer.
"I have been blessed with a second chance in my career," said the striker who, with 24 goals, has certainly taken it.
"We deserve to be in the Premier League. We are a Premier League side."
They are now.
Ian Holloway feels for Blackpool players who 'deserve more'
Ian Holloway, the Blackpool manager, was left to rue missed chances after his side fell at the final hurdle with a 2-1 defeat to West Ham United in the Championship final.
Stephen Dobbie’s shot was kept out by a combination of goalkeeper Robert Green and the near post before Matt Phillips twice squandered glorious opportunities to put the Seasiders ahead.
“It looked as though there was a foul but at the end of the day they’ve scored on 88 minutes,” Holloway said. “Sometimes in life it goes against you ... but you have to congratulate your opponents.
“I thought my lot gave a great account of themselves, we created enough chances to win the game.”
Holloway admitted it would be tough getting ready for another season in the Championship after coming so close to returning to the Premier League.
He said: “We’ve got to get over playing in the Championship again because we were all hoping we would be in the top flight.
“They’ve just lost a great big bonus and I feel for them because they deserve more.
“But they should be very proud of their efforts, this is a fantastic group of people and I’m proud to be a small part of it.”
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Updated: May 19, 2012 04:00 AM