West Ham’s Wembley matchwinner Ricardo Vaz Te is determined to make the most of his second chance.
The Portuguese winger was on the scrapheap two years ago after being released by Bolton following three injury-hit seasons. The 25-year-old had unhappy spells with Panionios in Greece and Hibernian before 22 games at Barnsley, where Hammers boss Sam Allardyce plucked him from in January. And that £500,000 punt looks like a bargain after Vaz Te’s dramatic play-off final winner sank Blackpool 2-1 and earned West Ham the estimated £90m promotion to the Premier League brings.
“I’ve been blessed with a second chance in my career and I’m cherishing it” said Vaz Te. “The Premier League is a challenge. We must go there with the mentality that we are a Premier League side, not fighting for relegation. We are going to give it our best.”
Vaz Te struck with three minutes remaining when he tucked away a rebound to ensure West Ham bounced back from last season’s relegation. 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 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.”