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Championship Play-Off Final Preview: West Ham United vs Blackpool

wembley playoff final Championship Play Off Final Preview: West Ham United vs Blackpool

It is often said that for a Football League player or a fan of a Football League side in England, there is no worse a footballing fate than being on the losing side in a Championship Play-Off Final. After 46 league games, the excitement of winning a two-legged semi-final and the anticipation of a trip to Wembley, it must be difficult to take when the chance of mixing it with some of Europe’s elite sides disappears at the last possible stage. Especially at the end of an arduous and draining campaign!

Unfortunately this cruel fate is one that the players of either Blackpool or West Ham United will have to endure on Saturday. But with both sides having featured in the Premier League last season, you feel they will need no extra motivation to get back to English football’s promised land and secure the financial windfall that comes with winning what has been dubbed as “Football’s Richest Game”.

The two teams that are involved this season are particularly contrasting in their approach to the game and their style of play.

Under Ian Holloway, Blackpool has responded excellently to their relegation from the Premier League last season. Many of their fans feared it would be a long time before Blackpool were challenging at the top of the Championship again after selling star players like Charlie Adam, David Vaughan and DJ Campbell. But after some sensible rebuilding, Holloway’s men finished fifth in the Championship and are now consequentially one game away from returning to the top flight. The Tangerine army descending on Wembley will no doubt be confident of a victory after their 3-2 win in the 2010 final against Cardiff as well as a seven game unbeaten run to finish the season. Blackpool will be welcome back to the Premier League, as their style of football and adventurous nature was applauded and well respected in all quarters.

Whilst you could argue Blackpool have overachieved this season, the same could not be said for Sam Allardyce and his West Ham side. With Allardyce’s experience of getting sides promoted and arguably the best squad in the league at his disposal, automatic promotion was expected by the Hammers fans. Although Allardyce can still provide West Ham with a route back to the Premier League, it means that the pressure on his side will be enormous come Saturday afternoon. A defeat could result in catastrophic consequences for Big Sam, who is already viewed with mixed opinions at Upton Park as it is. He will be confident that his players have enough experience in these types of games to see the Hammers through and to reward their loyal supporters with a victory under the Wembley arch. Whilst Allardyce has been labelled as a long ball merchant by many, his West Ham side have played some excellent football so far this season, a style of play the Hammers fans would love to see more of in the Premier League next season.

If past meetings this season are any kind of barometer for the final then Blackpool fans should probably skip this section. West Ham won both meetings in the league campaign this season, after netting four times twice in 4-0 and 4-1 wins and Bloomfield Road and Upton Park respectively.

Route to the Final:

West Ham:
Cardiff City 0-2 West Ham (Collison 9’, 41’)
West Ham 3-0 Cardiff City (Nolan 15’, Vaz Te 40’, Maynard 90’)

Blackpool:
Blackpool 1-0 Birmingham (Davies (OG) 45’)
Birmingham 2-2 Blackpool (Zigic 64’, Davies 73’; Dobbie 45’, Phillips 48’)

Likely Line Ups:

West Ham:
Green, Demel, Tomkins, Reid, Taylor, Noble, Nolan, O’Neill, Collison, Vaz Te, Cole

Blackpool:
Gilks, Crainey, Eardley, Evatt, Baptiste, Ferguson, M Phillips, Angel, Taylor-Fletcher, Dobbie, Ince

Key Players:

Mark Noble:
Noble is West Ham through an through and he’ll be keen to fire his beloved club back to the top flight. Noble himself has been in excellent form this campaign and his creativity and vision have provided strikers such as Carlton Cole and Ricardo Vaz Te with a plethora of chances throughout. His influence will be key as West Ham look to break down The Seasiders defensive ranks.

Kevin Nolan:
Nolan was Allardyce’s main signing this season and they have worked together at Bolton and Newcastle in the past too. Nolan has been the Hammers leader throughout the campaign and his knack of grabbing crucial goals could see West Ham through in what will be a tense ninety minutes. Blackpool will have to track his runs and stay alert from set pieces if they are to nullify the threat he poses.

Barry Ferguson:
After the departure of Charlie Adam, Ian Holloway looked to Barry Ferguson to fill the gap left in their midfield and he has filled the role left by Adam. Ferguson is cool under pressure, good on the ball and strong in the tackle, providing a steadying influence on the Blackpool midfield this season. His role will be key in a congested midfield, with both sides likely to play three players in the middle of the park.

Matty Phillips:
The emergence of Phillips has been a bonus for Blackpool this season. Whilst he did show glimpses of his potential during Blackpool’s Premier League campaign, he flourished in the side after a elongated spell in the first XI. He scored what eventually turned out to be the winner in the Semi Final against Birmingham and with him and former Liverpool man Tom Ince on either flank, the Seasiders best attacking options could from the wide areas.

Verdict:
I think West Ham will come through in this one. They have a lot of experience throughout their squad and pace and power all over the team. I think their more direct style will pose problems for the Blackpool back four and Noble and Collison should be able to get a grip on the midfield. West Ham have also been excellent defensively under Allardyce, so I think Blackpool will find it hard to break them down.

Prediction:
West Ham 2-0 Blackpool

TV:
For viewers in the United States, the game will be shown live on FOX Soccer at 10am ET.

Poll:

This entry was posted in Blackpool, Leagues: EPL, West Ham United. Bookmark the permalink.

About Matt Jones

Matt has been writing for World Soccer Talk for more than two years, contributing pieces about myriad topics and regularly lending his voice to the podcast. Matt has covered games live for the website from a host of venues, including Wembley, London and the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. He is a regular at Goodison Park where he watches his beloved Everton, but harbours an unyielding interest in all aspects of European soccer. You can get in touch with Matt via e-mail at mattjones@worldsoccertalk.com or on Twitter @MattJFootball
View all posts by Matt Jones →

28 Responses to Championship Play-Off Final Preview: West Ham United vs Blackpool

  1. Ally says:

    Should be a good game. As a Hull fan I’d prefer Blackpool to win to be honest!

  2. patrick starr says:

    West ham lose and then maybe Big Sam gets fired…and goes back to Bolton. PLEASE!

  3. Dust says:

    C’mon blackpool, C’mon blackpool, C’mon blackpool! The looney Ian holloway press conferences alone make the prem more entertaining!

  4. Andyb says:

    I want West Ham to win, not because I hate orange, not because I hate Ian Holloway, not because I hate the city of Blackpool but because I’m Welsh and Collison playing in the premier league benefits Welsh football!!!!!

  5. Alex Wolcott says:

    These would both be good clubs to have back. I kind of have some affection for both of them.

    I always do feel quite bad for whoever loses the promotion playoff. In relative terms this is one of the highest-stakes games in England each year. What is that worth to the winner? 80 million or so that first year alone?

    • Matt Jones says:

      it seems to increase season upon season Alex. Will surely be above the £100m mark in coming years.

      • Paul says:

        It actually jumped up in value by around £30 million in a few years. Last years estimates were £90 million. £100 million in the coming years? That’s small fries, it’ll be worth more than that come 2013. For as long as Sky and the international broadcasters keep paying billions, the television income will keep increasing, meaning the clubs gaining promotion instantly hit the jackpot. Even when they’re relegated they still get some very healthy parachute payments.

  6. jtm371 says:

    BLACKPOOL and Ian Holloway news conferences all the way.3/1 to Pool

  7. Jackpool says:

    You know Andyb, Neal Eardley plays for Blackpool and he’s welsh. BTW it’s not orange, IT’S TANGERINE

  8. Tommy says:

    I doubt that West Ham can beat Blackpool three times in a row. So the odds of Blackpool winning are better than the odds of them losing.

  9. trickybrkn says:

    West Ham won the only World Cup for England. This is a team that the premier league needs.THE Academy of Football. Blackpool is a sh**hole dying resort town that chavs go to… with a shi**y pitch and colorful manager. Nothing like Blackpool V Man U canceled cause they don’t have under soil heating. and the pitch is frozen.

    The dressing room fodder has been that Blackpool has been pumping them selves up by talking about a 2012/13 West ham kit released with PL badges…. thing is they made it up.

    its just a bad match up.

    and yeah I’m nervous. fortune is always hiding.

    COYI!!!!!!!!!

    • Dust says:

      LOL what book did you read that in? Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters were West Ham. 3 players, now, don’t get me wrong they were great players and moore was the best captain they were great, but to say west ham won it is craz for england and that they are ” the Acadamy” is very enthusiastic of you.

      Alan Ball, Roger Hunt, Nobby Stiles, Jack Carlton, Bobby Charlton, and the unflappable Gordon Banks just walked around with their hands down their shorts, in fact if you watch the final it’s pretty obvious you really only needed 3 players.

      There was a documentary made by a team of unicorns that followed the team on that fateful day. This footage showed Alf Ramsey storm out of the locker room mumbling I don’t have a plan to beat the Germans, I’m so pleased those guys from West Ham are here”.

      Crazy West Ham fans, blowing all them bubbles has made them light headed.

      Note: this has elements of sarcasm used to mock in an amusing way a delusional west ham fan.

      • trickybrkn says:

        Just so you know… the reason West Ham supporters list a World Cup victory is that it drives the Spuds support nuts. In fact anything that would even suggest that West Ham was a better supported team then Spurs… better history etc etc etc, winds those fickle spuds up.

        Tottenham released a DVD titled “Jimmy Greaves, should have been bigger then the Beatles.”

        It can be summed up like this…
        West Ham are followed by the likes of Keira Knightly & President Obama…. Tottenham by Patsy Kensit and Jerry Springer.

        COYI

        • Dust says:

          LoL I think it’s because your history isn’t very good so you cling on to statments made on the bacl of the enquirer.

          Keira Knightly and President Obama…haha did you read that in your teen girl weekly? If Obama went to upton park he would initially feel empathy for the state of the area and want better for the people, then after meeting one of them he would think they deseved it and order the 101 screaming eagles to go in and take them out.

          Can we have a poll please ? Patsy kensit in lethal weapon 2 vs Keira knightly in any movie. Jerry Springer is “real American Icon” that brought the great american and west ham tradition of fighting to a gossip show in the daytime…genius! if he had tattoos on his neck you’d try and claim him.

          Here are some other interesting famous, spurs fans jonathon Ive, jude law, (ask ur lady who she’s thinking of when…well you know) the legend that is Nigel Ben, Adele, Ray “the goodfella” Liota, Steve Nash, Ted Baker (which you wear a lot as a hammer fan right?), Bob Marley and the incredible, legendary Sid Owen!

          Good luck today :p

  10. Brad in SoCal says:

    This Blackpool side actually seems more solid all around than last year’s Prem side. Last year the defense got exposed regularly when the midfielders failed to get back and cover. Maybe that is Ferguson’s impact? Also Ince and Phillips seem to get back to cover better than forwards did in the 4-3-3 Holloway was using last season.

    Offensively still a threat going forward, as the writer noted. Also more comfortable passing the ball around in the middle of the park, building slowly sometimes instead of relying on a bit of Charlie Adam’s magic. Taylor-Fletcher always amazes with his hold-up play, not being that tall a man (or that fast, let’s be frank).

    The game could go either way, but come on, Blackpool!

  11. IanCransonsKnees says:

    I’d imagine most fans using this site can’t relate to a play-off final, generally they’ll support teams who haven’t been involved (and probabably never will be) in the turmoil that is the play offs.

    As a a fan it’s horrible, I’ve never been more nervous at a match than the play off final at the Millenium Stadium. Even the FA Cup final didn’t touch it for gut wrenching, sick feelings. And that was before kick-off!

    IMO it’s bigger than the Chelsea match tonight for the teams involved, that’s the cherry on the cake. The Play-off Final is either rejuvination or termination for the sides taking part.

  12. Guy says:

    Well, I’ll pull for Blackpool because they seem to be the underdog and I like Ian Holloway. I’ll have it on “mute” so I can listen to the Hibs v Hearts Scottish Cup match on BBC Scotland Radio :-) …….although I now see a “Match commentary, 14:00 onwards (UK only)” notice on the web site. Why the hell would that be? :-(

    • Guy says:

      …BBC Radio Scotland. They’ll suck either way if I can’t listen.

    • Paul says:

      Is it not on TV over there? It’s been pushed down to Sky Sports 4 here to fit the live play-off, cricket and golf in on 1, 2 & 3!

      • Guy says:

        Not on TV here. FS+ that now has the rights to the SPL doesn’t have the rights for the Cup. Anyway, right now, the pre-match is on BBC Radio Scotland, so maybe the match itself will come through, too.

        • Guy says:

          lol….I’ve been to Scotland twice, so I’m familiar with “scotsspeak”, but the guys on the radio are crackin’ me up. What was that? :-D

        • Paul says:

          Keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best! :)

          It’s odd at this time of year because now the Premier League season is over, we can watch live 3pm kick-offs, hence why they’ve allowed West Ham v Blackpool to start now instead of 12.45 or 5.15. It’s kick-off time… good luck Blackpool!

        • Guy says:

          Arggh!! “For contractual reasons we are unable to bring you this program, but keep listening and normal service will resume shortly.” On a loop…over and over and over. I take it “shortly” means in about 2 hours. **sigh**

          Oh well. Lets go, Blackpool!!

          • Paul says:

            haha I was actually hoping somebody may have forgotten to push a button or something and you’d be able to listen! Oh well, suppose you can just un-mute the TV now! ;)

  13. Guy says:

    Ouch! Already 2-0 Hearts. Guess I wouldn’t want to be listening after all.

    • IanCransonsKnees says:

      Hi Guy

      Be glad you didn’t make the trip. Work in Edinburgh will be fun for the Hibees on Monday! I can’t think of much worse than losing a derby cup final, apart from getting relegated. Fantastic city, here’s a picture of Easter Road you’ll appreciate, another Hibs v Hearts derby:

      http://www.homesoffootball.co.uk/collection/search/hibs/1/1997

      Hopefully Rangers demise will see the Edinburgh clubs take advantage and grow their support a little.

      • Guy says:

        Nice pic. When we were at Easter Road last year our seats definitely did not give us that view. :-)

        Guess I’ll get out my Hearts jersey. Not that anyone here in eastern NC would know the difference. :-D

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