• West Ham are first club to go straight back up since Leicester
• 'This means everything to me', says Sam Allardyce
Ricardo Vaz Tê praised West Ham United's spirit after his late strike at Wembley sealed an immediate return to the Premier League and an estimated £90m windfall, as they beat Blackpool 2-1 in a dramatic Championship play-off final.
The club were relegated under Avram Grant a year ago but Sam Allardyce had promised to lead his side back to the top flight at the first time of asking after becoming the Israeli's successor. His side did not disappoint, with the Portuguese striker's goal three minutes from the end sinking Blackpool and making West Ham the first team since Leicester in 1996 to bounce straight back through the play-offs.
"It was a great effort from the lads," said Vaz Tê, who joined West Ham from Barnsley in January. "It's not about the goal, we showed great character. I think we deserved it. We're a Premier League side and we deserved to go up.
"I feel like I have been blessed with a second chance in my career and it's great to be here. It is another step, a big challenge. We must get there with the mentality that we're a Premier League side and not there to fight for relegation."
Carlton Cole opened the scoring for West Ham in the 35th minute, smashing home Matt Taylor's cross from inside the six-yard box, before Thomas Ince levelled three minutes after the break. The game looked to be heading to extra time until Vaz Tê fired in from close range after a goalmouth scramble.
Allardyce was sacked in December 2010 from his previous job at Blackburn, who have just been relegated under his successor, Steve Kean. The West Ham manager said that promotion meant everything to him. "We managed to swing it, just. It's 49 games and it's the first one we've won in the last few minutes this season. It's everything to me. It was difficult at the start to turn the club around with the relegation problem but we came good at the end."
The West Ham captain, Kevin Nolan, who sported a T-shirt declaring "nothing beats being back" as he lifted the trophy, believes the side's young players will light up the Premier League next season. "I'm delighted," he said. "It's been special. Jack Collison and those boys are going to bless the Premier League.
"We were favourites from day one. We said we wanted to win the league and go up automatically. This was plan B. Thankfully we did it and I think we deserved it. It was a lot of relief more than anything."
Ian Holloway, the Blackpool manager, was left to rue missed chances after his side fell at the final hurdle. "We've got to bounce ourselves straight back. But they should be very proud of their efforts, this is a fantastic group of people and I'm proud to be a small part of it."