Where are they now? 2012 Play-Off final
On the fifth anniversary of West Ham United’s 2-1 victory over Blackpool which sealed promotion back to the Premier League in the 2012 Championship Play-Off final, we take a look at what that Wembley squad is up to now…
Goalkeeper: Robert Green
Current Club: Leeds United
Robert Green made his 241st and final appearance for West Ham United in the 2012 Championship Play-Off final.
Green was busy at Wembley, making a first half saves to deny Stephen Dobbie and Matt Phillips before being beaten by Thomas Ince’s low shot three minutes after half-time. The No1 was protected superbly the rest of the way, making another comfortable save from Dobbie as the Hammers held on to win.
The veteran stopper narrowly missed out on a return to the Championship Play-Offs this season as Leeds United finished seventh in the table.
Right-back: Guy Demel
Current Club: Red Star
Paris-born Ivory Coast defender Guy Demel was one of a number of experienced players recruited by Sam Allardyce as part of West Ham United’s post-relegation rebuild.
A Bundesliga title winner with Borussia Dortmund in 2002, Demel made 200 appearances for Hamburger SV before joining the Hammers, for whom he played 83 times over four seasons.
After a spell in Scotland with Dundee United, the right-back returned to France in summer 2016, splitting the current season between Championnat National club Marseille Consolat and Paris-based Ligue 2 outfit Red Star.
Left-back: Matt Taylor
Current Club: Northampton Town
Matt Taylor was another of the experienced professionals brought in by Big Sam to bolster West Ham United’s confidence-sapped squad following relegation.
A positive character blessed with terrific work-rate and a superb left foot, Taylor’s long diagonal pass set up Carlton Cole for his Play-Off final opener ten minutes before half-time.
Taylor remained with the Hammers until summer 2014, totalling 90 appearances and three goals, before joining Burnley. He spent the 2016/17 season with League One club Northampton Town, scoring eight goals in 48 games.
Centre-back: Winston Reid
Current Club: West Ham United
Then just 23, Winston Reid had enjoyed a breakthrough 2011/12 season under Sam Allardyce, rediscovering his confidence after a difficult relegation campaign.
The New Zealand international had ensured his hero status by scoring the winner against Millwall at the Boleyn Ground in February 2012. With James Tomkins and the experienced Abdoulaye Faye also in the squad, Reid totalled 31 Championship appearances, scoring three goals, including all three Play-Off matches.
Reid remains with West Ham, having been voted Hammer of the Year in 2013 and passing the 200-appearance mark in April 2017.
Centre-back: James Tomkins
Current Club: Crystal Palace
Another who was 23 at the time of the Play-Off final, James Tomkins had joined West Ham United as a schoolboy before establishing himself as a first-team regular in this promotion-winning season.
Tomkins played 47 times in 2011/12, scoring four goals. A popular defender, the Essex-born player totalled 243 appearances in Claret and Blue before moving south of the River Thames to be reunited with Sam Allardyce at Crystal Palace in summer 2016.
Tomkins’ performances have seen him ingratiate himself quickly at Selhurst Park, where he helped the Eagles retain their Premier League status.
Right midfield: Gary O’Neil
Current Club: Bristol City
Hard-working midfielder Gary O’Neil has joined West Ham United from Middlesbrough in January 2011, only to suffer a serious ankle injury in a challenge with former Hammer Nigel Reo-Coker in a Premier League fixture with Aston Villa at the Boleyn Ground three months later.
O’Neil recovered and proved to be a key performer as the Hammers qualified for the Play-Offs, scoring vital goals at Blackpool and Peterborough United.
The midfielder departed east London for Queens Park Rangers in summer 2013, reaching the Play-Off final again in 2014, when he was sent-off at Wembley. He completed a promotion hat-trick with Norwich City in 2015, before joining Bristol City last summer and playing 30 times this season.
Central midfield: Mark Noble
Current Club: West Ham United
The two-time Hammer of the Year was coming to the end of a superb 2011/12 season when West Ham United arrived at Wembley for the Championship Play-Off final.
Noble scored eight goals in 48 appearances in all competitions that year, earning Hammer of the Year honours and being named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year for the first time.
The popular midfielder has recently gone past 400 appearances in Claret and Blue, having been appointed captain at the start of the 2015/16 season.
Central midfield: Kevin Nolan
Current Club: Notts County (player-manager)
An outstanding captain who had played under Sam Allardyce during Bolton Wanderers’ outstanding period in the Premier League in the mid-2000s, Kevin Nolan was Big Sam’s first signing in June 2011.
Immediately appointed skipper, Nolan’s leadership and goals inspired the Hammers to mount a promotion challenge just months after they had been shattered by relegation. His cross led to Ricardo Vaz Te’s unforgettable winner, before ‘Nobby’ led his team up the famous steps to collect the Play-Off winners’ trophy.
Nolan spent four seasons in east London, totalling 157 appearances and 31 goals, before departing in August 2015. After a short spell as player-manager of Leyton Orient, Nolan was appointed as Notts County manager in January 2017, leading the Magpies to safety in League Two.
Left midfield: Jack Collison
Current Club: Peterborough United (U18s manager)
A talented, technically-gifted midfielder, Jack Collison joined West Ham United as a scholar before graduating from the Academy of Football in 2007.
After developing under Gianfranco Zola, Collison’s career was affected by a knee injury suffered in March 2009, but bravely battled back to feature 35 times in the Club’s promotion-winning campaign. His two goals in the Play-Off semi-final win over Cardiff City proved particularly important.
Collison remained with West Ham until summer 2014, having been loaned to AFC Bournemouth and Wigan Athletic, before ending his playing career with Ipswich Town and Peterborough United, where he retired in February 2016 and took up management of the Posh’s U18s. He also runs a successful soccer school and works as a media pundit.
Forward: Ricardo Vaz Te
Current Club: Akhisar Belediyespor (Turkey)
The well-travelled Portuguese forward was one of three attackers to join West Ham United’s promotion-chasing squad on the final day of the transfer window in January 2012, arriving after a prolific spell with Championship rivals Barnsley.
Vaz Te kept up his superb scoring record in Claret and Blue, scoring ten times in 15 league appearances before netting in the 3-0 Play-Off semi-final second leg win over Cardiff City at the Boleyn Ground.
The former Bolton Wanderers youngster then ensured his status as a Hammers hero by firing high into the net at Wembley with just two minutes remaining to see off Blackpool, before exposing his toned torso to the Claret and Blue Army.
After departing east London in January 2015, Vaz Te has had two spells in Turkey with Akhisar Belediyespor, either side of a stint with Charlton Athletic in the Championship in 2015/16.
Forward: Carlton Cole
Current Club: Persib Bandung (Indonesia)
West Ham United’s other Play-Off final scorer is now plying his trade in Indonesia’s Liga 1 with Persib Bandung.
The Chelsea Academy graduate played 289 times in the Premier League for the Blues, Charlton Athletic, Aston Villa and West Ham, but it is his Championship Wembley goal and assist that will forever see him remembered fondly in east London.
Since leaving east London after scoring 68 times in 293 games, Cole has played for Celtic in Scotland and Sacramento Republic in the United States before making his unexpected move to West Java in March 2017.