BBC BLOGS - Paul Fletcher
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Big Sam back in the big time with West Ham

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Paul Fletcher | 19:27 UK time, Saturday, 19 May 2012

There might be something of a marriage of convenience about West Ham United and manager Sam Allardyce, but it all seemed pretty blissful at the final whistle of the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Saturday.

The sun broke through the clouds, thousands of bubbles floated lazily across the ground and everyone connected with the club were united in celebration of the club's immediate return to the Premier League.

The players hastily put on T-shirts proclaiming "nothing beats being back" - and nobody wearing claret and blue inside Wembley was arguing.

Perhaps more than anything else, West Ham's 2-1 victory over Blackpool brought with it a sense of relief.

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Final qualifier whets appetite for Olympic tournament

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Paul Fletcher | 07:38 UK time, Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The spontaneous joy of the Senegal players dancing on the pitch in front of their small but passionate contingent of fans spoke volumes about what it meant to them to be part of the Olympic football tournament.

You could add to that the sight of a bling-heavy El-Hadji Diouf trying to blag his way into the Senegal dressing room by explaining to a steward that he is captain of the national team (he retired from international football in 2009) and a Premier League player (Doncaster were recently relegated to League One).

Then there were the supporters of the victorious African team waiting patiently outside in the cold for their triumphant heroes to emerge from their dressing room, enthusiastically surrounding Senegal-born Patrick Vieira when he appeared nearby.

If you wanted further evidence of the passion for Olympic football you could do worse than hear the noise created by the Oman supporters before Senegal's early goal, or the sight of Wigan's Oman goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, proudly wearing his national team's scarf and desperate for them to qualify so he could be part of the Olympics.

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Late-night texts and line-up leaks - the problems at Preston

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Paul Fletcher | 22:15 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

What is going on at Preston North End?

Is manager Graham Westley out of his depth, floundering around desperately trying to keep his head above water, and his team in League One?

Or is he in the midst of a much-needed overhaul at a bloated club, instigating a period of change that was always going to be difficult and painful but will eventually reap rich rewards?

The new North End boss won back-to-back promotions with previous club Stevenage, taking them from non-league to the higher reaches of League One.

He was brought in by chairman Peter Ridsdale - formerly of Leeds, Cardiff and Plymouth and himself a relatively new addition at Deepdale - in mid-January. Ridsdale took his time over the appointment, spending a month searching for the right man to succeed previous incumbent Phil Brown.

But the events since Westley took over have made largely miserable viewing for North End's supporters.

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