West Ham’s Tomkins makes the case for the defence
Hammers defender James Tomkins has been in the best form of his career since he returned to the starting line-up at West Ham.
WHEN West Ham met Wolves last season it proved to be a disaster both for the team as they crashed to a demoralising 3-1 defeat and for defender James Tomkins in particular as his first-half mistake put Mick McCarthy’s boys on their way to three points.
That game back in March proved to be Tomkins last of the season, but move forward nine months and the young centre half is back and playing the best football of his life.
“I feel I’ve matured a lot,” said Tomkins, who is still only 21, but on Saturday made his 50th league appearance in claret and blue. “Obviously last year I learnt a lot and I’ve played quite a lot of games for my tender age.
“In the Wolves game last season there were circumstances when it was even closer to the end of the season, but I’ve matured a lot since then and I’m now learning and enjoying playing.”
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The statistics bear out Tomkins assurance that he has learnt from his mistakes. When he first broke into the team, every error he made seemed to cost the Hammers a goal, but since his return to regular first team football this season, he has even overshadowed England star Matty Upson.
West Ham have let in 35 goals this season, but when Tomkins has played they have conceded just 13, including three clean sheets against Oxford and Manchester United in the Carling Cup and on Saturday against Wolves.
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Tomkins was relieved that the team managed to get over the line against Wolves this time round.
“The year couldn’t have started better for us,” he said. “We had a good week of results. Beating Fulham was a big result and drawing against Everton the other day meant we were full of confidence going into this game.
“We knew we could win and went out there believing in ourselves and we’ve come out with a victory.”
The defence certainly seems to have shored up in recent weeks, not only with Tomkins taking over from the injured Manuel Da Costa in the centre of defence, but also the inclusion of two more centre halves in the full back positions.
“We’ve played together for a couple of games now, so hopefully we’re developing a good partnership there now,” said Tomkins.
“The two full backs – Danny and Tal – who normally play centre half, are doing really well playing for us. I hope they can keep that going, so we can keep building as a back four for the rest of the season.”
It is not just personnel though, the England under-21 international was quick to point out the part played by new defensive coach Wally Downes.
Since his arrival following the disastrous 3-0 drubbing at Liverpool, West Ham have let in just eight goals in eight games.
“We are keeping things solid, not just with the back four, but with the whole team,” said Tomkins. “We’re defending well as a team and with the new defensive coach, as a back four we’ve just improved and come together.
“The team spirit has gone up even more and we’re more together and hopefully, having started the year well, we can just keep going.”
We always knew that Tomkins had the potential to go a long way with West Ham United. Now the former Academy boy seems to have cut out those painful mistakes that seemed to plague him at the start of his career.
And if he can keep that up then the Hammers will have found another top quality player off the Academy production line.