From Wembley to Vegas, the bubbles were flowing after West Ham's play-off success
21:30 GMT, 20 May 2012
The bubbles were still being blown over Wembley and popping up more than five thousand miles away in Las Vegas when an emotional Sam Allardyce made his first telephone call after taking West Ham back into the Premier League.
It was to his wife Lynne at the five-star hotel where she is staying with their daughter and grandson on the holiday Big Sam had to miss.
‘They’re eight hours behind and having a drop of pink champagne with their breakfast, I’m glad to say,’ said Allardyce, a winner’s medal draped proudly around his neck. ‘My wife doesn’t do nerves very well. She’s probably better off out of the way anyway.’
Sealed with a kiss: West Ham boss Sam Allardyce celebrates with Karen Brady at Wembley
Going up: Kevin Nolan lifts the play-off trophy at Wembley after Ricardo Vaz Te sealed victory
Blackpool: Gilks, Eardley, Baptiste, Evatt, Crainey, Ferguson, Dobbie (Bednar 90), Angel (Dicko 90), Ince, Matt Phillips, Kevin Phillips (Sylvestre 71). Subs not used: Southern, Cathcart.
Scorer: Ince 48.
West Ham: Green, Demel (Faubert 57), Reid, Tomkins, Taylor, O'Neil (McCartney 53), Noble, Nolan, Collison, Cole, Vaz Te. Subs not used: Henderson, Maynard, Lansbury.
Scorers: Cole 35, Vaz Te 87.
Booked: Vaz Te.
Referee: Howard Webb.
There were certainly nerves. Less than three minutes of normal time were left when Ricardo Vaz Te, a 500,000 signing from Barnsley in January, scored the 46million goal that broke Blackpool hearts.
It was appropriate that one of the manager’s Bolton old boys — and bargain buys — should emerge as the hero because this win was classic Allardyce.
Blackpool are by no means the first to outplay one of his teams and lose. Big Sam has been winning ugly for years but his decision to decline the offer from Newham Council for an open-top bus ride is understandable.
West Ham finished third in the Championship this season and were then second best in a play-off final against the team in fifth, although they have now beaten Blackpool three times this season with an aggregate score of 10-2. Beneath the celebrations lurks a quiet trepidation over how the Hammers will compete after rejoining a league in which the champions are bankrolled by Sheik Mansour of Abu Dhabi.
Golden moment: Hammers chairman
David Gold (centre) celebrates with
Kevin Nolan (left) and Mark Noble
DAVID GOLD TWITTER RANT
Someone from Blackpool or the football league should be publicly apologising to thousands of WHU fans who couldn’t get a ticket. DG @DavidGoldWHU
‘If you own 150 oil wells then it’s no problem, but if you own 150 Ann Summers shops . . . ’ said West Ham chairman David Gold, leaving others to fill in the rest. ‘The hard work starts Monday but I can face everybody — the fans. We talk about money, money, money but there’s an enormous amount of pride.
‘Fans will say hello to me in the street because I am a Premier League chairman and I can say hello to them because they are Premier League fans.’
It seemed harsh that Allardyce was questioned about his relationship with the club’s owners and supporters even as he celebrated taking West Ham up. Harsher still because he passes Blackburn and Bolton coming in the opposite direction, which underlines the job he did at both those clubs.
Close range effort: Thomas Ince beats Robert Green to fire Blackpool level
Gold cooled talk of rewarding the manager with an improved contract, but Big Sam is confident enough in his own ability to target an unlikely run at the top four next season. Maybe the bubbles had gone to his head.
‘I don’t need the security of a contract to work in this game, as far as I’m concerned,’ he said.
‘I’m my own man now. I’m setting myself up here again, by the way, but let’s think beyond fourth and see how far we can get this team in the Premier League.’
West Ham will have to play a lot better than they did here. Blackpool had the clearer chances before they conceded a goal to the impressive Carlton Cole and again after the even more impressive Thomas Ince levelled to silence the fans who have never forgiven his dad, Paul, for leaving Upton Park in 1989. ‘I’m proud of who I am and the name on the back of my shirt,’ said Ince.
Level-pegging: Ince levelled in the 48th minute
‘It’s just jealous people with nothing better to do. I think I proved it doesn’t faze me. Scoring at Wembley is something I will treasure for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t mean that much right now.’
Stephen Dobbie, a play-off final winner for the last two years, will be haunted by his miss before Vaz Te struck gold in the 87th minute.
For Ian Holloway, too, the contrast between the two occasions could not have been greater.
The Blackpool manager looked like a broken man afterwards, his voice cracking with emotion. He talked about pride but also about needing a holiday.
‘It feels like three years all in one go,’ said Holloway, who will take his family to Italy. Now I need a break.’
Opener: Carlton Cole beats Matt Gilks to fire West Ham into the lead
Whether he will make a permanent break from Blackpool remains to be seen. Other Premier League jobs could soon come up besides the existing vacancies at West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa, and you wonder whether the popular 49-year-old has taken Blackpool as far as he can.
With offers expected for Ince and Matt Phillips (West Ham tried to get him in the transfer window), another difficult summer beckons followed by what he called another ‘Championship slog’ with no sign of chairman Karl Oyston giving him the money to compete on a level playing field.
Sea of orange: Cole celebrates in front of the Blackpool fans
‘We need certain things in place because at the moment we’ve had to beg, steal and borrow, and I need some more coming through,’ said Holloway.
‘I need to talk to my chairman but I’m almost not looking forward to those chats because he gets on his high horse and starts bellowing.
‘He should know what I can do now. As an investment for his football club, I almost got him another 90m. Before I came here, his dad (Owen Oyston) was worth 105m and now it’s 215m.’
Running the show: Sam Allardyce and Ian Holloway study the match from the touchline
Amid the triumph and the tears, Mark Noble and West Ham’s man of the match James Tomkins slipped out of Wembley en route to the airport and a flight to Dubai for Noble’s stag party. The midfielder is marrying his childhood girlfriend Carly on Saturday.
‘We’re finally doing it,’ said Noble. ‘I said that hopefully this season we’d be promoted and we can marry as well. Touch wood, the lucky stars are looking down on me and everything has gone to plan. I’m just not sure I’ll be sober!’