Zamora: It was a great feeling to fire West Ham to the Premier League
Amazingly, it is 13 years since Bobby Zamora scored the goal that sent West Ham United back to the Premier League.
The Hammers, who had been relegated with a record-high 42 points in 2003, had missed out on making an immediate return to the top-flight when Crystal Palace edged them out 1-0 in the 2004 Play-Off final.
That game saw lifelong West Ham supporter Bobby Zamora replaced after 68 minutes and a year later, when Alan Pardew’s side faced Preston North End in the same winner-takes-all fixture, the Barking-born centre forward was back at the Millennium Stadium with a point to prove.
To score and do it in front of so many friends and family, including people I’d gone to games with as a kid, was a great feeling
Zamora had been used mostly as a substitute during the regular season, with manager Pardew preferring either Teddy Sheringham or Serhiy Rebrov as Marlon Harewood’s strike partner.
However, with Ukrainian Rebrov out of favour and 39-year-old Sheringham nursing a hamstring injury, Zamora took his chance by scoring three goals in the Play-Off semi-final victory over Ipswich Town to secure his starting place in Cardiff for a second consecutive year.
West Ham started brightly, with Tomas Repka hitting the post and Matty Etherington, Zamora and Harewood all going close, but the game was still goalless as the hour-mark approached.
It was then that Etherington broke down the left, crossed low and the No25 swivelled superbly to shoot past Preston goalkeeper Carlo Nash.
“The 2005 final was a cagey affair to be honest and one goal was always likely to be enough to win it for either side,” Zamora recalled.
“Matty got down the left and put the ball over and the fact I didn’t make a great connection with it is probably what done the ‘keeper!”
For Zamora, scoring the winner for his boyhood club in such a high-profile fixture was what dreams were made of.
“I’d had a bit of a taste of it before with Spurs, but to be able to get the team you love and support up into the Premier League was magnificent.
“That’s where all of us wanted to play, so to score and do it in front of so many friends and family, including people I’d gone to games with as a kid, was a great feeling.”
Zamora would go on to make 152 appearances in Claret and Blue across five seasons, including the 2006 FA Cup final, and scoring 40 goals, including four in the amazing Great Escape from relegation in the spring of 2007.
The east Londoner made many friends during his time at the Club and said the close relationships the players shared played a big part in their success.
“We had a great team spirit. I loved going into training, the banter with all the lads was brilliant. It was just a great set of lads who enjoyed a laugh and a joke, but we also put in the hard work so we could get the results we needed.”