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Vaz Te relishing Premier League challenge
West Ham's Wembley matchwinner Ricardo Vaz Te is determined to make the most of his second chance.
The Portuguese winger was on the football scrapheap two years ago after being released by Bolton, but the Hammers' £500,000 January recruit looks like a bargain after scoring a dramatic late play-off final winner to sink Blackpool 2-1 and earn West Ham the estimated £90million promotion to the Barclays Premier League brings.
"I feel I have been blessed with a second chance in my career and I'm cherishing it," said Vaz Te. "The Premier League is another big step, a challenge. We must go there with the mentality that we are a Premier League side, not fighting for relegation. We are going to go there and give it our best."
The Hammers were pre-season favourites for automatic promotion but missed out on the final day of the campaign to Reading and Southampton and had to go up the hard way.
Carlton Cole fired them ahead in the first half and Thomas Ince, son of former Hammer Paul, dragged Blackpool level just after the interval. But Vaz Te struck with three minutes remaining when he tucked away the rebound after Cole's effort was blocked to ensure West Ham bounced back from last season's relegation at the first attempt.
Mark Noble was the sole survivor from the last Hammers squad to make it through the play-offs at the Millennium Stadium seven years ago. And the homegrown midfielder lapped up his side's first Wembley triumph since Trevor Brooking's header secured an FA Cup win over Arsenal in 1980.
"This is very special," he said.
"We put the fans through it and we put ourselves through it, but it's all worth it. We wanted to go up automatically but it's not as good as this. The play-offs are horrible if you don't win, but that was one of the best days of my life. It's a fantastic time to be a West Ham player.
"You play against the best players in the Premier League, in the best arenas and it's the best place to be. I've played 90% of my football there and was desperate to get back."
Skipper Kevin Nolan made it a promotion hat-trick having previously helped Bolton and Newcastle to the top flight in his career. He said: "It was a tough day but we stuck in there, kept on going and snatched it in the end. We've been favourites from day one, we said we wanted to win it or get automatic promotion but this was plan B, and thankfully we won."
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