Vaz Te repays Allardyce's faith with golden goal
Blackpool 1 West Ham United 2: Portuguese forward's 26th goal of the season returns West Ham to the Premier League
The shirt sponsors at Wembley yesterday, a gambling company and a purveyor of pay-day loans, perfectly summed up the situation of most teams in the Championship who, having gambled on promotion, are now trying to find a way to pay the bills incurred in doing so.
For West Ham United, however, there is no need to fret. Yesterday they bounced back to the Premier League after a season's absence with a victory over Blackpool which will be worth, even discounting their lost parachute payments, a minimum £60m. Enough to re-fit an ex-Olympic Stadium with change left over.
It was one of manager Sam Allardyce's old guard who secured promotion, Ricardo Vaz Te, who was given his debut as a 17-year-old by Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers eight years ago. When Allardyce left the Reebok Vaz Te's career drifted and he ended last season at Hibernian. Vaz Te could have been playing in yesterday's Scottish Cup final instead of this showpiece, but Hibs released him, he joined Barnsley, and started scoring again. Allardyce signed him as the January transfer window closed and the Portuguese's 87th-minute winner was his 10th in 11 games, and his 26th and most important of the season.
It was hard on Blackpool who created the better chances of an even game, but could only take one, by Thomas Ince, son of former West Ham player Paul. His 48th minute goal cancelled out Carlton Cole's 34th-minute opening goal for West Ham and for a while Blackpool were ascendant, but they could not force home their advantage.
Instead it was West Ham, 47 years to the day since they won the European Cup-Winners' Cup at the old Wembley, who were left to celebrate. “It is a great way to go up,” said Allardyce. “You want to get automatic promotion but if you do win here, the delight and the memories for fans are for years to come. This is the culmination of ten months work, not like a cup where it is six or seven games. Of Vaz Te he added: “One of my best signings ever.”
“It's hard to take,” said Blackpool manager Ian Holloway “I wasn't that happy at half-time, I asked for a response, and boy did we get one. On another day we would have take those chances.”
Holloway was dealt what was to prove a significant blow when Gary Taylor-Fletcher failed to recover from an ankle injury picked up in training. It was not just his goals, but his presence the Seasiders missed. His absence forced Holloway to start with 38-year-old Kevin Phillips, who has been used to best effect this season when coming off the bench against tiring defences. Instead he found himself competing for high balls against James Tomkins, an unequal contest which he rarely won.
Nonetheless, in the early stages Kevin Phillips helped carve one of the two openings from which his namesake Matt should have put Blackpool ahead. How might that have changed the result, because as Alladyce admitted, West Ham were nervous.
They had the weight of expectation upon them after beating Blackpool 4-0 and 4-1 during the season and finishing 11 points higher in the league. Yesterday, in Hammers' first Wembley visit since 1981, they were slow to settle. The experienced Matty Taylor allowed Stephen Dobbie past him in the opening minute was relieved when Rob Green turned Dobbie's near-post shot onto the foot of the post.
A dozen minutes later a neat interchange between the two Phillips' and Dobbie sent Matt Phillips clear but his nerve went during the 20 yard run-in to goal and his shot was weak. A minute later the winger seized on Guy Demel's error and shot much more powerfully, but wide.
West Ham had been seeking to break behind Blackpool's high line but when they succeeded Vaz Te shot into the side netting. The warning was not heeded and after Ince was robbed off possession Taylor found Cole running off the shoulder of Ian Evatt to score a well-taken goal. Four minutes later Vaz Te should have doubled the advantage but missed.
Blackpool were hanging on but Holloway's half-time rollicking had the right effect. Blackpool began with more urgency and levelled when Matt Phillips' superb early ball released Ince to coolly convert. West Ham wobbled and a minute later Taylor cleared off the line after Alex Baptiste chipped Green.
From then on it was end-to-end. At one end Matt Gilks denied Cole and turned a stunning Kevin Nolan volley onto the bar. At the other Mark Noble cleared off the line from Matt Phillips and Dobbie scuffed his shot in front of goal. “I couldn't see Dobbie missing that, but unfortunately he did,” said Holloway. Extra-time loomed, then West Ham worked the ball to Cole again, he surged forward, Gilks denied him but Vaz Te lashed the loose ball home.
Holloway, who seems disgruntled with financial matters at Bloomfield Road, and is coveted elsewhere, revealed his team missed out on a £5m bonus pool by failing to gain promotion, money which he said, would have made up for their low wages. Allardyce revealed the introduction of Financial Fair Play would have forced a fire sale at West Ham had they stayed down. Instead the gamble taken by owners David Sullivan and David Gold has paid off and the wonga will be rolling in next season.
Allardyce's promotions: The ups and downs of Big Sam
Bolton Wanderers 1977-78 Trotters won title to get into the old top flight with Allardyce in central defence.
Preston North End 1986-87 Captained club out of bottom tier as runners-up to Northampton Town.
Notts County 1997-98 Won bottom tier title by 19 points, sealing promotion by March.
Bolton Wanderers 2000-01 Reached top flight via play-off victory over Preston.
West Ham United 2011-12 Took club back up at first attempt with play-off victory.
Blackpool (4-2-3-1): Gilks; Eardley, Baptiste, Evatt, Crainey; Martinez (Bednar, 90), Ferguson; M Phillips, Dobbie (Dicko, 90), Ince; K Phillips (Sylvestre, 71).
West Ham (4-4-2): Green; Demel (Faubert, 57), Tomkins, Reid, Taylor; O'Neil (McCartney, 53), Noble, Nolan, Collison; Cole, Vaz Te.
Referee Howard Webb.
Man of the match Cole (West Ham).
Match rating 8/10.
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