Wednesday 25 April 2018

Vaz Te gives Allardyce his finest hour

Andy Sims

Blackpool 1

West Ham utd 2

Jubilant Sam Allardyce believes leading West Ham back to the Premier League is the highlight of his career.

Ricardo Vaz Te's late strike secured a dramatic victory for the Hammers over Blackpool. West Ham, relegated last season, missed out on automatic promotion on the final day of this term but that disappointment was forgotten as 40,000-odd of their fans celebrated a first Wembley win since 1980.

Allardyce, who guided Bolton to promotion via the play-offs at the Millennium Stadium in 2001, said: "It's probably bettered that because it's West Ham United, with the size of the club and the pressure, and because it's at Wembley. It's the first time I have come here and won -- not that I've been here very often.

"It's been an outstanding, thrilling season compared to where we came from. This is a memory for life and we will enjoy it. You want to go up automatically but if you don't and you win the final then it's a memory for everyone for years and years to come. The delight you get out of winning at a venue like this, the trophy, the medals, the celebrations, it's an outstanding achievement.

"It's bigger than anything else; other games played here are cup competitions but this is everything, it's about what's happened over 10 months, not six or seven games."

West Ham were short-priced favourites having thumped eight past Blackpool over two matches this season and, after a nervous start when Matt Phillips missed two glorious chances to give the Seasiders the lead, Carlton Cole struck. The one-time England forward latched on to Matt Taylor's cross to rifle his 15th goal of the campaign past Matt Gilks.

But Allardyce was stunned shortly after the interval when Thomas Ince showed he has inherited his dad Paul's uncanny knack of irritating West Ham's fans when he equalised just after the break. The winger, whose every touch was jeered by the Hammers supporters who never forgave Ince senior for the manner in which he left the club 23 years ago, produced a fine finish from Phillips' cross. But as an end-to-end second half reached a climax, Vaz Te was on hand to crash in the rebound after Cole's shot was blocked.

The Portuguese winger, a £500,000 January buy from Barnsley, looks an even bigger bargain now having netted his club an estimated £90million.

"What a signing," said Allardyce. "The goals he has scored are probably why I'm sat here now and back in the Premier League. He deserves a lot of credit." Joint-chairman David Gold added: "I think it was his (Allardyce's) master plan to have this fantastic day."

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