In form Hammer Tomkins full of praise for Wally

James Tomkins was West Ham’s man of the match at Sunderland and he says he owes much of his form to the new defensive coach.

WEST HAM’S recent renaissance may have been curtailed by defeat at Sunderland on Sunday, but for one Hammer the revival continues.

James Tomkins made his third successive start against the Black Cats and though he couldn’t follow up wins over Wigan and Manchester United, he was still the best player on the field in a Hammers shirt.

His performance was epitomised just five minutes from the end of the 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light. Kieran Richardson collided with goalkeeper Robert Green and when the ball spilled to Danny Welbeck it looked odds on that Sunderland would make it 2-0.

However, the former West Ham Academy defender, threw himself towards Welbeck and made a superb block to keep the home side at bay.

The 21-year-old centre half has been plagued by costly mistakes since he came into the team back in March 2008. Every error he made seemed to end up with the ball in the net and inevitably it cost him his place in the starting line-up as first Manuel Da Costa, then Danny Gabbidon stepped in alongside Matthew Upson.

But there can be no coincidence that since the arrival of new defensive coach Wally Downes, Tomkins has been restored to the starting line-up and is now looking as good as ever at the heart of the West Ham backline.

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Tomkins himself certainly appreciates the impetus that Downes has given to the defenders.

“Wally is very experienced,” said the former England under-21 international. “He works with the back four, he takes us together and he works on us as a unit.”

It it obvious when you think about it, but it seems that it is something West Ham have not been doing since the arrival of Avram Grant in the summer, despite the Israeli insisting that that is the coaching system he prefers.

“He brings passion in, you can see him on the sidelines ranting and raving, but he wants us to do well,” said Tomkins, who has now made 55 appearances.

“He came in, he made a little point and it has worked well for us and hopefully it can carry on.”

Despite Sunday’s defeat, it was not the defence that let West Ham down against Sunderland. They held firm, but for one lapse, while at the other end the strikers barely got a look in.

For Tomkins it is simply a matter of doing the simple things.

“It’s all about how we are going to play for each other, how we are going to cover each other, staying solid and realising that if it has to go into the stand, it has to go into the stand.”

Some would point the finger at Tomkins yet again on Sunday. It was he who tried to play Asamoah Gyan offside, only for the Ghana striker to beat the trap and set up Jordan Henderson for the only goal of the match.

That is perhaps a little harsh on the youngster, who played one of his best games in a West Ham shirt.

Perhaps now, under the influence of Downes, he will finally come of age.

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