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Tony Cottee, London24 West Ham Columnist
Thursday, May 10, 2012
“Credit must go to everyone at the club for rallying round and putting in two great performances.”
From the very start of the season, I was keen on the idea of West Ham being in the play-off positions and reaching a final at Wembley.
I always said that automatic promotion would of course be ideal, but when you finish in the top two there isn’t really a day out for the fans.
And that is what Saturday, May 19 will provide.
It will be a memorable day for the thousands of fans that are lucky enough to get tickets and for those that don’t it will still be a special occasion.
West Ham fans have stuck by their team in recent years, with little in return and it is about time that the supporters had the day out that their loyalty deserves.
I am pleased that the Hammers managed to show the grit, determination and desire to reach the final, as it is often difficult for the team that finishes in third place.
It was especially difficult for us to take given that we had been in the top two for the majority of the season, only to then fade away.
However, we finished strongly with two good wins and that helped us build some momentum going into the Cardiff City games.
I think that a lot of credit must go to everyone at the club for rallying round and putting in two very impressive performances.
We put in another solid away performance last week, but I thought we looked really good on Monday.
There was always going to be some nerves before the first goal of the game, depending what side it went to, but once again, up popped Kevin Nolan to pretty much decide the tie.
Kev has had his fair share of criticism this season, but I don’t think you can argue with what has been a strong season from the Hammers captain.
He has scored some crucial goals over the course of the season, and his work off the pitch is just as important.
I think he has been a tremendous leader this season and it hasn’t been easy for him.
Ricardo Vaz Te scored the second goal and it was a real rocket.
I think everyone in the ground was screaming for him to pull it back, but he only had one thing in his mind.
I was also pleased for Nicky Maynard to get on the scoresheet, especially so soon after coming on.
It isn’t always easy for a striker to come on as a substitute and sometimes it can take a while to get into the game.
But credit to Nicky, he hasn’t sulked about not being picked, he has kept his head down and done well when called upon, and that is the attitude of a player that you want to have in your squad.
The one negative that came from Monday was the injury to Jack Collison and I really felt for him when he was forced to come off.
The exact extent of the shoulder injury is unknown at the moment, but it isn’t looking good for him to fully recover for the final.
In a big game like a play-off final you really need to have all of your players 100 per cent fit and he mustn’t be rushed back too soon.
The injury has come at such a bad time for the Wales international too, just as he was getting into form and back among the goals.
I am glad that we are playing Blackpool in the final.
Having beaten them twice already this season, we would be extra confident against Ian Holloway’s side, but I am sure that we have enough experience in our squad, with players like Rob Green, Carlton Cole and Nolan to deal with the pressure that the final brings.
Anything can happen when it comes to one-off games like this and I expect Sam Allardyce to have a real selection headache on his hands.
These big matches are the ones you want to be playing in and I am sure that every player will be keen to stake their claim for a place in the matchday squad at the home of English football.
Tony Cottee was talking to Nathaniel John