Re-birth of the claret and blue... now get it right this time

It's taken me a few days to get my fuzzy head around it all, I am sure you all understand(!) but the sheer joy, relief and elation of Wembley and promotion deserved to be savoured before thinking about next season's relegation battle.

Because that's what it will be if we don't get it right this time around. Last time we went this way, we got to the FA Cup Final (the only thing we lost that day was a penalty competition), finished ninth and stopped Spurs getting into the Champions League on the last day of the season.

Then everybody's enlarged egos got the better of them, none more so than Alan "all three of me ex-teams have got promotion" Pardew.

We were in Europe and decided to 'sign' two World Cup stars - Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez, both of whom have since claimed Champions League winners' medals - on dodgy contracts. The rest is a painful history.

Elsewhere in that squad and staff there was too much money, too many posh cars and a belief they were better than they really were. And that includes Pardew.

Alan Curbishley (criminally), Franco Zola (too inexperienced) and Avram Grant (just too bad) came and went and we were down in the Championship again.

Now I've thought about this next statement for a while since Wembley, not sure that I should let my heart rule my head again, but I'm prepared to think that this is now the rebirth of our great club. There, I've said it.

The reason is that I do not believe Sam Allardyce, whatever anyone thinks about his style, will let any of the aforementioned situations happen under his watch. Yes, I know Steve Kean has re-opened the can of worms that is Sam's transfer legacy,and there may well be legal action on that one.

But I recall Sam falling out with the BBC a while back over the expose programme that dragged Harry Redknapp's reputation (now stop laughing) into the open. And I don't think there was anything more than threats of legal action then, but no real action.

In fact, had our beloved Davids axed Grant in the January of last year and employed Sam then, I doubt we would have gone down. Certainly we wouldn't have thrown away a string of 2-0 leads.

But I've listened carefully to people like Matt Taylor - who came across as a really clever, calm, sound professional in a TalkSport interview this week - as well as Ian Wright's opinions on Big Sam.

Mark Noble - what a star the little man has become - and Kevin Nolan covered the subject this week, as well as some of the more sensible commentators. And the view is that Sam is much higher thought of inside the game than he seems to be amongst a small minority of Hammers fans this season.

Hearing Taylor outline the technical aspects of Sam's season, plus the outstanding medical set-up we now have (not something we've always been able to say) and you realise what a sound, professional manager we have.

He did what it says on the tin. Promotion first time around. And very few have achieved that back to the top flight. History, I believe, will view this season in a different light to the perception of how some West Ham fans are supposed to feel. It's been a miracle.

Sam this week pointed to a squad when he took over who were in disarray, no spirit, full of cliques and players who would not even mix with each other, just "sitting in a corner on their own" when he arrived.

We have been dragged kicking and screaming into the real world. And it must be pointed out that when Sam arrived the job description was to get us out of this division. Nobody told him he had to try to play like Barcelona (or Swansea if you like). Nobody said he didn't have to bother about organisation, defending properly, learning effective set-pieces, fighting for the shirt and showing sheer bloody mindedness not to lose.

He introduced Nolan, his 'man in the dressing room' to forge the spirit and team ethos we all witnessed at Wembley. I don't recall anyone not cheering!

But all of that has come from just a year under Sam. Did anyone see any of that under the quite dreadful Grant, who is able to only win titles in one-team leagues like Israel and Serbia?

It has not always been pretty, if at all. Sam has made use of what he has. We've scored 89 goals this term spread around 19 players, and when the real pressure was on, we won our last five on the trot. As West Ham managers go, we've seen nothing like this since maybe Billy Bonds and definitely John Lyall.

When Blackpool were playing their passing game and threatening to over-run us at Wembley, nobody in a claret and blue shirt jacked it in (are you listening Grant). They fought for their lives, anyway they could, and they fought for us.

Some Blackpool players have been poor losers (understandable I suppose). We are supposed to be a team of giants and the winner was a foul. Nonsense. Manchester City have got a clutch of brilliant little'uns (Tevez, Silva, Aguero, Nasri) but by God they have some giants, too.

Nobody wins anything without big, physical, powerful players these days and the champions are the perfect example. And I've watched the winner from every Sky angle, and I still can't see the supposed foul or what Alex Baptiste is on about.

Now Sam and our owners know they must get things right from here on. Steady, careful building of our club to the point when we can be established in mid-table like West Brom, Fulham, Everton and Stoke have become.

Sam will obviously be judged on his summer of transfer activity, and I doubt next season will be any prettier than this one. Sam's Bolton stayed up and found their feet with a ferocious, high intensity style pushing the laws to the limits.

I didn't like a lot of it, and saw too much to be fair for my liking. Sam upset the purists like Benitez, Houllier and Wenger. But he didn't care. He was doing the job he'd been asked to do. And that is how it has been at the Boleyn.

We are going to get a new stadium whether we like it or not, that is part of the master plan. We are going to get more of the same from Sam, and I refuse to accept that what I have watched this season is all about long ball, and I have witnessed 34 of our games this term.

But I am tempted to believe things will be different this time around, without Terry Brown, without the financial incompetence of daft Icelandic owners and poorly appointed managers.

And our great fans deserve better. If nothing else on Saturday, we all reminded everyone that we are a big, big club. Over 50,000 of our lot were there, Blackpool could not even sell 30,000 of their allocation.

I think it was the biggest congregation of West Ham fans in one stadium since the 1965 European Cup Winners Cup final - 47 years ago to the day when 80,000 of us were there on the greatest of all nights at the old Wembley.

The mass pilgrimage on Saturday to see the Bobby Moore statue at the end by many thousands of Irons was a fitting conclusion to a memorable day for our fans.

The Football League admit we could have sold 60,000 tickets, but I doubt they would really have wanted that sort of imbalance of fans. And segregation is a real problem and not just about the seating. Regulations say it has to also involve the bars, lifts, concourse and stairways - not an easy task at a place like Wembley, who are used to a big buffer of centrally located uncommitted ticket holders to make their job easier.

Still it was truly a wonderful day, to be part of that huge family. The noise and singing was deafening. We were as one, and it's something I will never forget because as David Gold pointed out, the day gave us our pride back after the recent years of shambolic ownership, court hearings, tribunals and fines.

One thing only soured it for me, and that was the treatment of Thomas Ince, just because of who his dad is.

For a moment or two after he scored, and during his outstanding performance before George McCartney got a grip, I could see the Ince family revenge robbing us of ?90m, promotion and maybe even our future as a club. Young Ince was defiant, as you would expect any son to be for his dad.

Whatever the reasons, surely it's time for us to move on and be bigger than this. Because Paul Ince was not as much to blame for what happened way back then, as some others. I know, because I know the people involved and the real story.

I will now bore you all with it. I've known Ince senior for a while now, professionally, when he was at Liverpool, Manchester United and boss at Blackburn and Macclesfield. He has always wished the incident never happened.

But back then he was a very young, immature lad facing his first big transfer and being advised by people who should have known better. If he was guilty of anything, it was trying to help out a friend of his agent.

That pal was a top photographer with a paper owner by the company I once worked for. The other perpetrator was a journalist, a good friend of mine. Thankfully I was nowhere near the incident!

The transfer to Manchester United was a done deal, a fact accepted by everyone in the game and the media. The snapper involved had been right on top of the story for a while but was about to go on holiday and didn't want to miss a scoop picture.

So he persuaded Ince's advisors to allow the boy to pose in that infamous Man U shirt for a picture that would never be used before the deal was done.

Now I believe Ince was not that keen, but allowed himself to be persuaded. Don't forget he was still a kid and wanted to go along with the favour.

The picture was taken and filed back at the newspaper concerned in the picture library (long before computers). But somewhere along the line, the embargo instruction went missing and was not on the back of the picture.

The story dragged on, the snapper went on holiday and then one night an updated story arrived from the paper's Manchester office - an attempt by someone to scoop the London lads who had been following the story (there was even rivalry in those days between various offices on the same paper).

The story arrived, the picture file was requested by what was a stand-in sub-editor that night, and there was this picture of Ince in a Man U shirt. The alarm bells should have been ringing, but the said sub-editor decided to use it. And all hell has broken lose ever since.

Ince was horrified, as were Manchester United and West Ham. Ince should never have posed for the picture, but the real blame lays elsewhere amongst agents, advisors and smart-alec journalists. Yes, I've called my friend that to his face.

But what ever happened was back then, son Thomas does not deserve the treatment he got at Wembley. It does the name of our fans no good. We should all move on, we are bigger than this.

And as a club I believe strongly that we will be bigger in the future. The platform is there, the amount of money available even greater and the Premier League will soon have a new, greatly enhanced, TV contract to come into force.

So well done Sam and the team. You gave us a magical day and we are deservedly back in the top flight. Don't forget we finished 11 points clear of Blackpool and have now beaten them four times on the trot. Nothing was more deserved than our promotion.

This summer is going to be sweet. Much better than last summer which was a miserable disaster with our team and club at an all-time low. I believe Sam will not allow that to happen again. COYI.

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