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West Ham vs. Blackpool: 6 Players to Watch Out For

Michael DoyleContributor IIIMay 19, 2012

West Ham vs. Blackpool: 6 Players to Watch Out For

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    Today is a massive day for English football. 

    Later on Chelsea will try to become the first London club to win the Champions League, but first the 20th and final team will confirm their place in the Premier League ahead of the 2012-13 season. 

    But will it be Blackpool or West Ham who make an immediate return to the top flight?

    Although West Ham finished 11 points and two places higher than Ian Holloway's men in the league season, and have comprehensively beaten them twice in the regular season, both have shown themselves to be dangerous in attack and worthy of their place at Wembley. 

    Regardless of the winners of today's game, you can expect players of both sides to appear in the Premier League next season. 

    Here are six who you should keep an eye out for this afternoon. 

Tom Ince

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    Last summer Charlie Adam made his expected move away from Blackpool following their relegation from the Premier League, and has enjoyed a less-than-successful first season at Liverpool

    But as part of the deal Blackpool secured the services of youngster Tom Ince, son of former England international Paul, who has been a revelation despite only turning 20 in January.

    Even though his more famous father was a box-to-box midfielder in his day, Tom is an out-and-out winger, and will most likely cause West Ham issues down the left side.

    Chances are Ince will be a Premier League player next season whether or not Blackpool win today's game, as teams in the top flight have already been looking to sign him. 

    Despite his young age, he can prove today that he can live up to the big occasion in front of 90,000 at Wembley. 

Ricardo Vaz Te

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    The Portugeuse striker struggled in his career before the start of this season, failing to make a name for himself at Bolton or at short spells in Greece and Scotland. 

    But he couldn't stop scoring for Barnsley in the first half of this season and attracted the interest of high-flying West Ham, who signed him in January. 

    Since then he has continued his rich vein of form in East London, scoring 11 times so far for them, including a run of eight goals in just five games toward the end of the season. 

    His pace, energy and finishing make him one of the most dangerous forwards in the Championship, and don't be surprised to see him on the scoresheet later on.

Matt Phillips

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    On the other wing to Ince for Blackpool, you will find another youngster in Matt Phillips.

    He joined Blackpool when they were in the Premier League, and this season in particular proven himself to be one of the most dangerous players outside of the Premier League. 

    Although he was sent on loan to Sheffield United earlier in the season, he has come back with a bang, scoring 10 goals. He was called up for international duty with Scotland at the age of just 20. 

    Now 21, he is a player for the future but will need to be on top form against a West Ham defence which didn't concede in either playoff game against Cardiff. 

    With Ince on one wing and Phillips on the other, Blackpool have genuine threats down both flanks, which West Ham will do well to stop. 

James Tomkins

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    Despite only being 23 years of age, James Tomkins has been one of the star performers this season in the Championship. 

    Rightfully named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year at Centre-Back, Tomkins has forged a key partnership with New Zealander Winston Reid in the league's fourth-best defence. 

    A fan favourite and a local lad from the team's prestigious academy, Tomkins has played over 40 games this season for the Hammers. 

    With Blackpool known for their attacking flair, a solid performance by Tomkins and the rest of the back four will be pivotal should the Londoners prevail at Wembley. 

Barry Ferguson

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    Perhaps the most experienced player you'll see during the game, the 34-year-old captain will be pivotal in the Centre of Blackpool's midfield. 

    His age may have been an issue toward the end of the season when his performances were dropping, but in the playoffs he has shown that he can live up to the big occasion, and there are none bigger than the playoff final at Wembley.

    He may even play as a holding player, allowing the likes of Phillips and Ince the freedom to attack farther forward. 

    In a game where Blackpool will need to get the ball toward their most dangerous players on the wings, it is crucial that they control the game from deep, which is where Ferguson comes into play. 

    He will most likely play alongside Keith Southern or Angel Martinez, and if they can control possession, stop West Ham's dangerous attacks and distribute the play to the wingers, you can expect Blackpool to have every chance of causing an upset.

Kevin Nolan

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    West Ham's captain will also be a key figure in today's game, as the fate of the Hammers depends largely upon the performance of Kevin Nolan

    Despite being a regular at Premier League sides Bolton and Newcastle earlier in his career, Nolan decided to drop down a division to work alongside former manager Sam Allardyce, and he has been crucial as West Ham took their place in the top two early in the season. 

    Although they were eventually pipped to the post, the performance of Nolan hasn't dropped. Similarly to Ferguson of Blackpool, Nolan's performance in the centre of midfield will be crucial to starting the attacks that make West Ham dangerous opposition. 

    He can even chip in with the odd goal, getting 12 so far this season, so don't be surprised to see him going forward at times in the game. 

    Should Jack Collison be fit despite picking up an injury against Cardiff in the playoffs, the Nolan-Collison partnership in the centre of midfield will be tough for Blackpool to break down. 

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