An overjoyed Tom Aldred says Blackpool’s heart-stopping play-off semi-final triumph against Luton Town goes down as the best moment of his career.
The commanding defender played a crucial role in the Seasiders’ 6-5 aggregate win, which means they will contest the League Two Play-off Final at Wembley against Exeter City a week tomorrow.
It will be a record seventh time the Seasiders have walked out at the national stadium for a play-off final, with Pool winning four of their previous six.
Aldred had a massive hand in Pool’s dramatic triumph at Kenilworth Road, having made a crucial clearance from underneath his own crossbar just minutes before Gary Bowyer’s men scored in the 95th minute to win the tie.
The centre-back also heroically battled on through injury to help send the Tangerines to the final.
Aldred said: “As you could probably tell, I could barely walk at the end. I seized up so I had to battle through,.
“Whether that’s just a knock or a recurrence of my Achilles problem, I don’t know.
“But I just knew it was meant to be when I cleared that cross from under the bar.
“I’m delighted, as you can tell because my voice has gone, but this is the best moment of my career.”
This achievement will no doubt mean more to Aldred given the turbulence he has witnessed both off and on the pitch in more than two years at Bloomfield Road.
The 26-year-old, who first arrived from Accrington Stanley in January 2015, endured Pool’s successive relegations from the Championship and League One.
But now the club’s longest-serving player has a chance to secure a return to the third tier at the first attempt.
He added: “We’ve got to enjoy this moment because they don’t come along very often but as a team, as a club, we deserve this.
“We’ve worked ever so hard. We’ve battled and done everything we’ve needed to.
“The fans deserve great credit too. They’ve turned up and I believe this club deserves to be in a higher league.
“We’ve had to come out this season and put a lot of effort in, but we’re now one step away from what we set out to achieve at the start of the campaign.”
Aldred made his 100th appearance in a tangerine shirt during the 3-1 win against Leyton Orient on the last day of the regular season, a win which secured Pool’s spot in the play-offs.
He has played a leading role in a defence that kept 15 clean sheets during the 46-game campaign.