Alan Pardew: 'That was just fantastic. It was my best day in football'

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The Independent Football

Pardew, who scored Crystal Palace's winning goal at the same venue in an epic 4-3 victory over Liverpool 17 years ago, said the defeat of Steve McClaren's Uefa Cup semi-finalists, and the place in next season's Uefa Cup which it guaranteed, added up to "my best day in football".

And he dedicated West Ham's triumph to the memory of two former managers of the club who have passed away this year. "I put one word at the flip chart today, and that was 'destiny'," Pardew said. "So for the families who have lost Ron Greenwood and John Lyall - that was for you. The two of them would probably have been grimacing at our first-half performance! But we turned it around."

Pardew has known the thrill of performing in a Wembley final - although Palace's 1989 meeting with Manchester United brought a loser's medal - but he has also sampled the grass-roots stage of the competition. "As somebody who has played in the first qualifying round, for Whyteleafe, and possibly Banstead, I know what this Cup is all about - 20 people on the sidelines and dodgy referees. So today was just fantastic. It was my best in football, that's for sure."

Less than a year ago, West Ham scraped into the Championship play-offs and squeezed past Preston in the final in Cardiff, Bobby Zamora striking to deliver the same scoreline as Marlon Harewood's late goal produced. Since gaining promotion, Pardew has established them in the top half of the Premiership, a feat that has finally allayed the bitter, personal criticism that followed his arrival as manager from Reading.

Asked about this turnaround, he resisted the temptation to declare a sense of vindication, preferring to assess West Ham's progress as a club. "To get in a position where we've got European football back at Upton Park is a fantastic achievement for a promoted side. We showed what we're about in the second half. We upped the tempo and got our reward."

Pardew added: "It was a great goal. I was particularly delighted for Marlon because he really has improved. To hit a shot like that - on his wrong side - was a terrific finish."

The goal prompted a touchline jig from Pardew which later caused him to squirm with embarrassment. "I'm not the dancer. That's my brother," he explained. "I'm usually the one who is stood at the bar."

Wisely in view of that shortcoming, he left the knees-up to his players afterwards, departing quickly and quietly for the dressing-rooms after shaking hands with McClaren. In doing so, Pardew explained, he was following the dignified precedent set by his manager at Palace, Steve Coppell, when they overcame Liverpool against the odds.

Pardew's players were somewhat less circumspect, milking the occasion until the last pretty bubble died in the air. "We play Liverpool at home in the League on Wednesday, and judging by the boys' celebrations, it's going to be a bit tricky," he quipped. "But we'll be ready for them in the FA Cup final - don't you worry about that.

"We'll be up against a blue-riband side, one who were European champions last year. But we've earned the right to be there."