West Ham United boss Sam Allardyce believes Wembley hero Ricardo Vaz Te has proved one of the best signings he’s ever made.
The former Bolton Wanderers attacker has made a huge impact with the Hammers since joining in January from Barnsley, and his 87th-minute winner fired them to promotion after a 2-1 play-off final triumph over Blackpool.
Vaz Te netted 24 goals for the two clubs this season, including 12 in just 16 starts for West Ham. But his most important one came on Saturday when he smashed the ball in from close range with the match seemingly poised for extra time.
Allardyce said: “We kept going to the end and fittingly for me and Vaz Te he scored the winner. What a signing. The goals he’s scored are probably the reason I’m sat here now and we’re back in the Premier League because buying him in January is arguably one of my best signings ever, and I’ve signed some good players in my time.
“I’ve had some bargain buys in my time on free transfers but I think at this stage, someone you buy so cheaply, who scores so many goals in the Championship, deserves a lot of credit for himself. If you add what he scored for Barnsley he’s well in the 20s this year.
“Having come from being down and out after being released by Bolton he’s worked his way back, so to come back into English football, and to score 24 goals and the winner has given us a new dimension.”
The Irons went into the final as favourites but Blackpool spurned three glorious opportunities to score in the opening 15 minutes. The Tangerines paid the price as they fell behind to Carlton Cole’s superb finish, from Matt Taylor’s delivery, ten minutes before half-time.
But West Ham were pegged back at the start of the second period when a long pass found the excellent Tom Ince and he rifled the ball into the net.
Allardyce’s side looked second best for much of the half, with Ian Holloway’s team again creating a host of chances. But poor finishing proved their downfall and Vaz Te’s late effort sent the Hammers back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
The former Bolton boss said: “I thought it was really difficult to call which way it was going to go. I think particularly after they got the equaliser it seemed to really knock us for six, but to recover and score the winning goal was brilliant. I think that it wasn’t about how we won. It was just about making sure we won this tie.
“We’d have like to have won and played a little bit better but I think you’ve got to give Blackpool credit because they didn’t let us. The game ebbed and flowed all the way through from one end to the other.”