Irons look mighty at evens
Made to measure. That's the phrase that immediately springs to mind when we look at the final hurdle that now stands between West Ham and an instant return to the Premier League. Everything that is good about Blackpool is everything the Londoners need in order to play the game on their own terms.
Therefore, we really can't see beyond a comfortable Hammers victory at Wembley on Saturday and that's why we're also prepared to take the 3/1 available on West Ham (-1) on the handicap, as well as the 21/20 quote on them completing the job any which way inside the 90 minutes.
Play-off finals have a habit of being tight affairs, so often settled by a solitary strike, but they've so often been contested by teams for whom the thought of defeat is almost too much to bear and the opportunity of playing in the Premier League is too much to leave to chance.
Since the top flight was reduced to 20 teams in 1996, only four out of 30 subsequent finalists have been teams relegated the previous season but the new parachute payment structure has perhaps gone some way towards making this the first play-off final between two teams instantly familiar to those casual followers with short memories on the other side of the world.
Back West Ham to beat Blackpool at 21/20
The prize for winning this game is rumoured to be somewhere in the region of £90m and that remains a huge incentive to both clubs but the contrast for the losing side is hardly as stark as it has been in years gone by, so we should bring big-match-o-meter down a peg or two when weighing up the tension variable.
Both teams have players of Premier League pedigree, but more so West Ham, and we get the impression that Sam Allardyce has brought his men to the boil at just the right time. Everything seems to have fallen into place for the Hammers and we're not sure we can ever recall a two-legged play-off semi-final performance as controlled as theirs against Cardiff.
Such games can often hinge on a handful of pivotal events that swing momentum one way of the other, and the Bluebirds could lay claims to some misfortune, but the talking points all seemed rather irrelevant in the end. You sensed that West Ham would have progressed whatever twists had occurred.
Back West Ham (-1) to beat Blackpool on the handicap at 3/1
And while it can sometimes be a dangerous game to read too much into league results when contemplating a knockout scenario, it seems clear that Blackpool will have to conjure up a surprise or two if they wish to avoid succumbing to the same traps that saw them beaten by a combined total of seven goals in their two meetings against the Hammers.
The Tangerines were troublesome for two-and-a-half hours against Birmingham but it's their performance in the final 30 minutes at St Andrew's that serves as the lingering memory. Once Blues got a foothold in the tie, Ian Holloway seemed powerless to stem the tide.
Blackpool's attacking capabilities have to be respected but Holloway readily admits his team have come further than he ever expected. Had they been coming up against your average Championship outfit, you might have fancied their positivity to prevail, but West Ham are something else and this might be a bridge too far.
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