Belfast Telegraph

Allardyce hails promoted Hammers

A jubilant Sam Allardyce admitted leading West Ham to promotion back to the Barclays Premier League was the biggest achievement of his career.

Ricardo Vaz Te's dramatic late strike secured a 2-1 victory for the Hammers over Blackpool in the play-off final. 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 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 bigger than anything else, other games played here are cup competitions but this is everything."

"It's the first time I have come here and won - not that I've been here very often," he went on. "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."

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. He latched on to Matt Taylor's cross to rifle his 15th goal of the campaign past Matt Gilks.

Shortly after the interval Thomas Ince showed he has inherited his dad Paul's uncanny knack of irritating West Ham's fans when he equalised. 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 some 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.

Blackpool's boss Ian Holloway shrugged off reports linking him with Aston Villa, and said: "The players certainly did me proud. Some things in life are harsh and it certainly feels that way at the moment. They scored with their first chance and we had a couple better than that.

"It was on a knife edge, it's the spin of a coin and it's dropped their way so well done, good luck to them, we'll dust ourselves down and start again."

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