Filed: Monday, 7th May 2012
By: Staff Writer
Sam Allardyce reflects on a job thoroughly well done - and looks ahead to the play-off Final a week next Saturday. His post-Cardiff press conference exclusively in full..
Sam: You must be delighted with the team's performance over two legs to get to Wembley?
Yeah, it's been two outstanding performances. I think that the platform was set for the players to deliver today. There was a little bit of anxiety because we were in front by two goals and also the big favourites. We were a little bit nervous about how we were going to start, what we're going to do and what Cardiff are going to do.
Obviously they were going to change the tactics a little bit with nothing to lose, just to try and go for it and see if they could get the first goal. But the start again was outstanding - the diamond we played again was terrific - and from thereon it was just a case of the lads keeping control of what they already had. We went on to win the game in fantastic style with a great performance.
The first goal, from the corner was very important - and then [we scored] two scintillating goals from [Ricardo] Vaz Te and Nicky Maynard. Arguably it could have been more but 3-0 at home, 2-0 away and two clean sheets, you can't ask for any more. The players have delivered under enormous pressure because the whole season rides on two games and whether it ends up being a brilliant one or we all end up disappointed.
Now it's down to 90 minutes at Wembley?
Well I hope it's just 90 minutes - and we win it, I don't want to go into extra time! It gives us great confidence to go on the even bigger stage at Wembley and try and give the sort of performance we gave today. Obviously that's what we hope to do. Whoever we play it's going to be very difficult, whether it's Blackpool or Birmingham. We can now look forward to it and make sure that when we get there, we try and deliver what we've all wanted right from day one.
Do you think if you reproduce the way you've played these last two games you'll be very difficult to beat?
I think so. We've got to handle the occasion and the opposition and hopefully that will produce the best performance from the players. They've certainly managed to do it under the extreme pressure we've worked under in the play-offs [so far]. There's been no nerves from the players, there's been no anxiety and there's been very few mistakes made.
There's been a lot of quality about our football and there's been a lot of desire and determination to make sure that we get where we wanted to go. Under those extreme circumstances we've delivered two outstanding performances and hopefully that will remain in the players' minds as a positive mental attitude going into the Wembley Final on 19th May.
Who would you prefer to play?
I don't really know. I'm going to watch Birmingham and Blackpool on Wednesday and I'll watch the game on TV at home. Blackpool, based on how they played that day [in the first leg] were very good but unfortunately failed to make the most of the chances they created and only got the one goal. But second leg? Birmingham have lost only one game at home all season.
So it's going to be a case of who can keep their nerve the best, I think, on Wednesday night. I'm just glad we're through and they've still got to play, so I can relax a little bit and let those two managers go through the pressures that the play-offs bring. I'll wait and see and who wins and we'll plan accordingly.
Any news on Jack Collison?
It looks like a dislocated shoulder unfortunately. We wouldn't rule him out straight away until we know the extent of the dislocation which will be done via MRI scan as quickly as possible.
Do you think there's too long a gap between now and the Final?
No I don't think so. For the players who have worked extremely hard over a 48-game season, the mini-break they can have between now and the start of our build-up preparations will be vital for them to gain the strength needed to go into such a big game. Hopefully that will give them the opportunity to deliver their capabilities as footballers because they'll have had enough time to fully recover, physically and mentally, for such a big match. So I'm glad there is that extra few days.
How does this campaign compare with all the others you've gone through considering the level of expectation?
Well only losing one in twenty now and scoring as many goals as we've scored in the last eight games - I think we've averaged three goals a game - has been a terrific period for us and a terrific season really. The disappointing thing was that had we been a little luckier and a little bit more careful with some of the home results - draws happening rather than wins - we'd have got automatic promotion, or when in the past 86 points would have been enough.
So I think it's been a fantastic season by everybody who works at West Ham United and I think that, considering where we came from at the start, it's outstanding. As it is for Blackpool and as it is for Birmingham.
We've found for the first time that the three teams who were relegated are three of the four teams in the play-offs. The turnaround that you have to do is something that needs to be handled and managed as quickly as possible and then you deliver - and we've all delivered. Whether we can deliver the final one now is the big ask. We live under that pressure and try and deliver.
Is that showing the gap is growing between the Premier League and the Championship?
No, it's getting narrower, isn't it. Look at Norwich and Swansea - and QPR if they stay up. There's three of them staying up, so I think it's not too big if you get the right group of players, the right investment and you buy wisely. If you do that then you'll have a chance; it depends how, when and what you do as a manager when you get there.
Given the expectation is this one game the most intense pressure you've been under to get a result in your career?
There was probably more pressure in year two at Bolton when we had to beat Middlesbrough at home [to stay up]. I shouldn't mention this, because West Ham went down! But we had to beat Middlesbrough at home, that was more pressure than a Wembley Final and more pressure than this because we were chasing the millions, as always. We were chasing Premier League status and having one game to do it in.
West Ham were playing Birmingham and Bolton were playing Middlesbrough at home. The good thing was we knew if we won, we stayed up and we didn't have to rely on anybody else - and we did. We went on to become a fantastic unit from thereon, the difference between the history of Bolton Wanderers and what it might have been was massive because they're still in the Premier League 11 years on. Had I not done it then, that's what - nine years x £30, £40, £50 million? A pretty big bank roll, isn't it? So there was a bit of pressure there.
So we'll handle this pressure. The thing is, it's a better stage to go on and deliver, isn't it? Wembley, rather than playing at home on your last game of the season with everybody crapping themselves in case you don't do it, you know. So we managed it then and we'll hopefully manage it now and try and get the players to deliver. I just want the players to play like they played either at Cardiff or how they played here today. Hopefully that will be enough. If they play like that we'll have a great chance of getting there.
If you get them there could you stay up with this squad of players?
I always think that any group of players that get a club promoted need to be strengthened. You've got about 26 players leaving here and 19 players coming in in one season. That's the size of the job, it's a massive turnaround. But the squad would always need to be strengthened in terms of its quality to go into the Premier League, I think.
You try and do that with whatever budget is given, but at this moment in time we're not there. We're far from being there - well, 90 minutes away from being there - and we've got to focus on that and hopefully, if we can deliver, then we can worry about what the Premier League brings.
Decision on Cole and O'Neil due tomorrow [19th May 2013]
West Ham Utd 4-2 Reading [19th May 2013]
West Ham Utd v Reading: live [19th May 2013]
Pog standard [19th May 2013]
Allardyce looking ahead [13th May 2013]
Sam signs [11th May 2013]
Thanks for the memories [8th May 2013]
Oops! Allardyce's live TV gaffe [6th May 2013]
McDonald on... Newcastle Utd [5th May 2013]
10:42AM 8th May 2012
''Great performance by the team. Tomkins and Reid were outstanding at the back, Vaz Te's goal was pure class and a great strike by Maynard. COYI....Wembley here we come. UP THE HAMMERS!''
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