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EUROPE > Big Sam hails his Wembley triumph

LONDON - Agence France-Presse

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West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce celebrates with the trophy after their victory in the 2012 Championship playoff final. AFP photo

West Ham United manager Sam Allardyce celebrates with the trophy after their victory in the 2012 Championship playoff final. AFP photo

Sam Allardyce admits leading West Ham back to the Premier League with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Blackpool in the Championship play-off final at Wembley is the finest achievement of his career.

Allardyce has been under intense pressure to fulfill his pre-season promise that West Ham would make an immediate return to the top flight after last season’s relegation and he finally delivered thanks to Ricardo Vaz Te’s late winner on May 19.

The Hammers’ owners had allowed Allardyce to invest heavily in new signings and, after missing out on automatic promotion to Reading and Southampton, failure to secure the final place in the Premier League could have cost the 57-year-old his job.

In the circumstances, victory over Ian Holloway’s Blackpool was a massive relief for Allardyce, who must have taken extra delight that he will be back among the elite next season while Blackburn, who sacked him in 2010, will be languishing in the Championship.

Allardyce, who guided Bolton to promotion via the playoffs 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.”

Alex Baptiste squandered a fine chance to win it for Blackpool and Vaz Te made him pay in the 87th minute when he fired home from close-range to secure West Ham a promotion worth between £45 million and £90 million.

“What a signing,” said Allardyce of Vaz Te, who arrived from Barnsley in January.

“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.”

Blackpool boss Ian Holloway, who rubbished reports linking him with Aston Villa, claimed his side just didn’t get the rub of the green at the key moments.

“The players certainly did me proud. Some things in life are harsh and it certainly feels that way at the moment,” he said.

“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.”

May/21/2012

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