By Gareth Royle
West Ham fans are smiling again after their team secured a swift return to Premier League football by beating Blackpool 2-1 in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Around 45,000 Hammers fans made the trip across London, and they were partying under the Wembley arch as the final whistle blew.
Lifelong West Ham fan Ravi Wickremasinghe, of Brixton, said, “It’s great to see us back where we belong.”
And fellow Hammer Jack Lundie, of Peckham, added, “You’re not part of the conversation if you’re not following a Premier League team.”
In a match largely dominated by underdogs Blackpool, Ricardo Vaz Te struck the winning goal three minutes from time after Blackpool’s Thomas Ince had cancelled out Carlton Cole’s opener.
The result means West Ham boss ‘Big Sam’ Allardyce will feel he has silenced the doubters who believed he was the wrong man for the job when he was appointed following the club’s relegation a year ago.
Allardyce has struggled to win over Hammers fans, who feel that his style of play does not fit in with the Upton Park club’s traditional values.
But all that is forgotten as the Irons look forward to mixing it with English football’s big boys next season.
West Ham stand to make an estimated £90m from their promotion – money that will go some way towards clearing the club’s substantial debts.
But the Hammers’ beaten opponents Blackpool, who were relegated along with West Ham last season, were left counting the cost of several missed chances, as Ian Holloway’s plucky tangerines must start all over again in their quest to return to the Premier League promised land.