Relegation still painful for West Ham defender

Hammers centre half James Tomkins is hoping to learn from the bitter experience of relegation and become a mainstay in the West Ham team this term.

West Ham defender James Tomkins has still not recovered from the nightmare of last season’s relegation – but he is determined to learn enough from the experience to get the club back in the top flight at the first time of asking.

The 22-year-old centre half featured in 19 of West Ham’s Premier League games last season, but could not prevent the team from finishing rock-bottom.

It is something that still hurts.

“It is still hard to get over it now really,” confessed the former West Ham Academy boy after Saturday’s 0-0 pre-season friendly draw with Wycombe Wanderers.

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“Realising that we are in the Championship this year really hurts, it hurts me as much as it hurts anyone else.

“But we are looking to bounce straight back up now and relegation is something in the past.”

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The Hammers stumbled to relegation under manager Avram Grant and Tomkins is still in the dark as to what exactly went wrong.

“We had good players so it hard to put a finger on why we didn’t stay up,” he said. “There were a lot of games we drew that we should have won. It all goes down to those sort of games really, but it is hard to pinpoint.”

With the loss of defenders Matty Upson, Manuel Da Costa and Danny Gabbidon, Tomkins will become an important player in the West Ham squad this season, something he has happy to take on.

“I think I’ve matured a lot recently,” he said. “I learned a lot from players like Matty Upson and Danny Gabbidon, who have great experience, so hopefully I can step up this year and be a more experienced head this time round.”

Tomkins had to be the experienced man at Wycombe as he was partnered by another youngster in Jordan Spence in the central of defence.

“I’ve played with a lot of different people already in this pre-season,” he said. “Jordan moved into centre back with no trouble. He coped really well with it and he looks a good right back and now a centre back too.

“I’m still only 22, but I’m hoping I can use the experience I have had over the last couple of years.

“We have been through some hard times, but I feel that I have grown both as a player and a person, so hopefully I can do that.

“We are under a new manager now and hopefully we can start on a new era now and we can go on from here and get straight back up.”

Tomkins, who now has 75 games in claret and blue under his belt, has certainly noticed the difference in the camp since Sam Allardyce arrived as manager and he is looking forward to the new season kicking-off.

“He comes with a good record, he is a bubbly character, energetic and enthusiastic which are all good attributes,” said Tomkins.

“I’m looking forward to working under him, learning and improving as a player myself.

“I think we need to look at getting straight back up. With the players we still have at the club and the young lads that are coming in, hopefully with that combination we can go straight back up, but obviously that starts with Cardiff.”

With only four recognised central defenders at the club, Tomkins is likely to be first choice against the Bluebirds, but he is taking nothing for granted.

“We need to start well because this is a hard league to get out of, but hopefully we can get straight back where the club belong and I can play a big part in that.”

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