West Ham celebrate promotion to the Premier League after a 2-1 play-off win over Blackpool, secured by Ricardo Vaz Te's dramatic late winner.
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.’
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.
‘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.
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.