Big Sam’s Hammers beat Blackpool to book spot back in the Premier League
PUBLISHED: 15:00 21 May 2020
PA Wire/PA Images
It was eight years ago this week that West Ham booked their return to the Premier League with a play-off final win over Blackpool at Wembley.
But they very nearly blew their chance on the big stage under Big Sam Allardyce, before Ricardo Vaz Te’s 87th-minute goal settled the outcome.
The Hammers had enjoyed two comfortable wins over their rivals during the regular Championship season, finishing 11 points above them in the final table, but that would count for nothing in the winner-takes-all showdown in north London.
And it might have been a very different story had the Tangerines taken two very good chances inside the opening quarter of an hour.
But Matt Phillips shot tamely at Rob Green, then curled another shot wide moments later and the tide finally began to turn around the half-hour mark.
Having forced a string of corners in quick succession, West Ham got the breakthrough on 35 minutes, with a slice of luck
Matt Taylor’s attempted pass to Vaz Te went astray, but when he got it back, he sent a perfect ball to Carlton Cole, who controlled superbly and fired past Matt Gilks.
Vaz Te wasted a great chance of a second three minutes later and Blackpool were back on terms within three minutes of the restart as Cole lost possession and saw Angel Martinez pick out Thomas Ince to fire across Green into the far corner.
West Ham wobbled as Alex Baptiste got through and saw a goalbound chipped hacked away by Taylor, before Winston Reid’s last-ditch tackle denied Stephen Dobbie, who sent another effort wide of the mark.
Allardyce sent Julien Faubert and George McCartney on for Guy Demel and Gary O’Neil before the hour and saw the stretching Jack Collison stab the ball just wide before Cole had a shot on the turn superbly saved.
Mark Noble still had to clear Baptiste’s effort off the line and Green saved from Dobbie, before Kevin Nolan volleyed McCartney’s cross against the crossbar and James Tomkins headed a free-kick onto the roof of the net.
With extra time looming, Collison released Nolan on the left and his low ball into the box found Cole, who used his strength to beat two defenders and divert the ball away from Gilks into the path of Vaz Te, who fired into the roof of the net from close range.
But there was still time for Stephen Crainey’s cross to go dangerously close and Nouha Dicko to have penalty appeals waved away by Howard Webb, before the noisy Hammers faithful could celebrate being back in the top flight.
A delighted Allardyce beamed: “We’ve only lost eight games this season and made sure. Even though we were not at our best we won, which is the most important thing.
“We took more chances than Blackpool did and that gives us the right to be back in the Premier League.
“It’s been an outstanding, thrilling season compared to where we came from. This is a memory for life and we’ll enjoy it.
“The delight you get out of winning at a venue like this, the trophy, medals, celebrations, it’s an outstanding achievement, bigger than anything else.
“Other games played here are cup competitions, but this is everything. It’s about what happened over 10 months, not six or seven games.”
West Ham: Green, Deel (Faubert 57), Taylor, Reid, Tomkins, Noble, Nolan, O’Neil (McCartney 54), Collison, Vaz Te, Cole.
WHAT THEY SAID
RICARDO VAZ TE
“I thank everyone for giving me the opportunity and I hope they remember this moment.
“I thought Coley was going to score and I saw him take a dip, so I just took a gamble. he managed to nick it round the keeper and set it up perfectly for me and I just made sure that I hit the back of the net.
“It was a tremendous feeling. I’m delighted to be part of it, delighted to get the winning goal for the team and it is just an amazing moment to be part of this.”
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“It feels so great to be back in the Premier League again.
“I’ve learnt my lesson. I don’t want to be back in the Championship again and I’m going to work even harder to make sure we can stay there.
“I’ve kept my mouth shut for quite a while, but I did take a wage cut to stay in the Championship. Half my wages just went, but I thought I want to help the club get back to where we belong.
“I didn’t want to leave the ship, I would not have been able to live with myself. I feel happy here. The manager welcomed me, stuck by me and said ‘listen, we will have a good season this year, get up and you will be back in the Premier League anyway’.
“It is brilliant and I am so happy and really, really proud to be a Hammer.”
“From the start the atmosphere was amaing. The West Ham end was full and the fans were signing.
“I was really happy to come on and be part of the win, so I am really happy.
“I enjoyed the season. It is about getting promoted and for the fans, staff and everyone it is really good.
“I played a good campaign and scored a goal. We are back in the Premiership, that is the main thing.
“It was a tough day. Blackpool played really well and created a few chances.
“I didn’t think I would get on as early as I did, but it was great to be out there, we kept it tight at the back and thankfully we got the winner.
“I was having a good season until the Birmingham game where I got concussion and when I came back the manager kept the same team.
“I can’t get too disappointed, I’ve played my part this season. I’ve played 40 or 41 games this year and I’md delighted.”
“The support was incredible. I don’t think there was a spare seat in the West Ham end of the ground.
“The support we have had all season, especially at away games, has been fantastic.
“The highs and lows of being at this club are incredible. I’ve been through it especially and this is just another emotion and memory I will remember for the rest of my life.
“I couldn’t see myself celebrating the way I did but the whole season just comes out in one moment and I’m delighted.
“It seemed as though there were 14 Blackpool players on the pitch at one point. But we weathered the storm brilliantly and everything about the game showed what we’re about.
“There wasn’t one point when I thought it wasn’t going to be our day. The nerves started to come in, but I thought that we handled it fantastically well.
“It is an honour to be captain of West Ham. To be able to lead the lads at a fantastic stadium and win to get us back to where we belong, especially for those fans and the chairmen, is fantastic.”
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