By Stuart Condie ,AP
LONDON — West Ham striker Ricardo Vaz Te scored with three minutes remaining to take his team into the English Premier League with a 2-1 win over Blackpool in the promotion playoff final on Saturday.
The Portuguese winger lifted the ball into the roof of the net from close range after a goalmouth scramble to end the Hammers’ yearlong absence from the Premier League.
The victory guarantees West Ham more than US$100 million in broadcast and other revenue and should help it keep hold of its best players, including England goalkeeper Rob Green and Vaz Te, who scored 24 goals this season.
“It is another step, a big challenge,” Vaz Te said. “We must get there with the mentality that we’re a Premier League side and not there to fight for relegation.
“West Ham is a great club.”
West Ham was relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season and hired former Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce to get it back.
The Hammers were challenging for automatic promotion for much of the season but their form dipped late, allowing Reading and Southampton to pull away and fill the top two spots in the second-tier League Championship.
“It’s everything to me,” Allardyce said. “It was difficult at the start to turn the club around with the relegation problem we’ve had but we turned it round and came good at the end.
“I’ll look forward to the celebrations first before I start worrying about the Premier League. We’re just delighted about how much it means at West Ham for the players, the owners, the staff and the 30 or 40,000 fans here.”
Vaz Te hit the side-netting and Jack Collison put a shot high before Carlton Cole put West Ham ahead in the 35th minute, collecting a cross from Matt Taylor and sweeping the ball past goalkeeper Matt Gilks.
Blackpool hit back two minutes after halftime after Cole gave the ball away. Matt Phillips carried the ball forward and crossed to the feet of Tom Ince to score with a shot across Green to the far post.