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West Ham will handle play-off pressure - Allardyce
Published : 18 May 2012 01:16:58
Sam Allardyce insists his West Ham stars can cope with the pressure of facing Blackpool with a lucrative place in the Premier League on the line in Saturday's Championship play-off final at Wembley.
Allardyce's side cracked under the strain of battling for automatic promotion from English football's second tier and allowed Reading and Southampton to secure the first two spots in the top flight.
But the east London outfit rebounded impressively in the play-off semi-final against Cardiff, cruising to a 5-0 aggregate victory that kept them on course for an immediate return to the Premier League after last season's relegation.
Now they must pass one final test against Ian Holloway's Blackpool, who were relegated along with West Ham 12 months ago and are also desperate to seize the estimated Â£90 million ($142 million) at stake in world football's single richest match.
Promotion to the Premier League is worth around Â£50 million in increased television income, gate receipts and commercial revenue, with another Â£40 million worth of parachute payments guaranteed to cushion the blow of relegation from the elite.
Allardyce, boosted by the return to fitness of Wales midfielder Jack Collison, has no doubts West Ham's players are capable of dealing with the high-stakes clash.
"It's a fabulous game to be involved in, particularly for the players," Allardyce said.
"We are the favourites with all the pressure on us, so we have to handle that as we have done all season. Hopefully we can deliver and beat Blackpool for third time this season.
"We will treat them with the utmost respect and make sure we try to expose the weaknesses they have in their side if we can and as early as we can.
"We've got to live with the pressure to spur us on to give us our best performance. The pressure should bring the best out of us and not be one of those games where we actually freeze on the big stage."
While West Ham are firm favourites after beating Blackpool 4-0 and 4-1 in their league meetings earlier this season, the Seasiders play an eye-catching brand of attacking football that, on Wembley's wide open spaces, could trouble the more rudimentary tactics employed by Allardyce.
One of Blackpool's key figures will be young winger Tom Ince, who is relishing his first taste of a major occasion after watching his father Paul play in so many during his illustrious career with Manchester United, Inter Milan, Liverpool and England.
Ince junior left Liverpool last year in a bid to get more regular first-team action and the switch to Blackpool has proved an inspired move.
The 20-year-old, whose father began his career with West Ham, admits it has been a significant advantage to have a parent who knows exactly what he is going through.
"I can't fault my dad," Ince said. "He's brought me up in the best way I could have ever wished for.
"With my dad it's father to son, but it's also player to player. I've been having that double advantage where someone can point me in the right direction both on and off the field.
"He'll be the first to praise me and the first to criticise me."
Ince senior is something of a hate figure at West Ham after the controversial manner of his move to Manchester United and his son would love to silence the critics with a Wembley win.
"They've got a lot of Premier League stars on big wages and a big budget. But that doesn't mean anything on the day," Ince said.