Big Sam has no beef with Tangerines, 16 years on


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The Independent Football

Sam Allardyce insists he bears Blackpool no grudge as he prepares West Ham for their vital Wembley encounter with his former club.

The Hammers manager is 90 minutes from a possible return to the Premier League, 18 months after being sacked by Blackburn. He cut his managerial teeth at Blackpool before being shown the door after just missing out on promotion to Division One in 1996.

But he said: "It's long gone, water under the bridge. At the time it was devastating because I thought I might not get back into the game. Luckily that wasn't the case. The experience I gained as a manager has stood me in good stead to go on and do better things, so I have no axe to grind with Blackpool."

Allardyce is halfway through a two-year contract at Upton Park but knows questions will be raised about his position if his current team, pre-season favourites for automatic promotion, falter in the play-offs.

"[This game] is important for the status of everyone at the club, particularly for myself and my staff and the players, who require Premier League status again," he said. "We all know how important it is from both the football side and the financial side; it gives the club a huge amount of revenue and worldwide branding."

Blackpool v West Ham

Kick-off Today, 3pm, Wembley. TV Sky Sports 1, Highlights BBC1 11.35pm.

Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire).

Odds: Blackpool 3/1 Draw 13/5 West Ham Utd 10/11.

Team news Blackpool have no injury concerns as they attempt to win promotion for a second time in three years. Jack Collison has been passed fit for West Ham after overcoming a shoulder injury suffered in the semi-final.