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West Ham defender: Europe is a realistic possibility

PUBLISHED: 12:07 03 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:07 03 February 2016

James Tomkins and Michail Antonio celebrate v Aston Villa

James Tomkins and Michail Antonio celebrate v Aston Villa

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Hammers full back James Tomkins shakes off his usual reticence to suggest the team can go far this season

West Ham United's James Tomkins during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham.West Ham United's James Tomkins during the Barclays Premier League match at Villa Park, Birmingham.

They are not shouting it from the rooftops just yet, but West Ham’s victory over 10-man Aston Villa on Tuesday night strengthened their position in sixth place in the Premier League and left them looking up at the European places.

The Hammers made hard work of things, being outplayed by bottom side Villa in the opening 15 minutes, before Remi Garde’s side pressed the self-destruct button.

Jordan Ayew’s elbow on Aaron Cresswell was as stupid as it was unexpected and earned him a clear eed card.

“I didn’t see it myself, but the lads were saying it was stupid,” said defender James Tomkins following the 2-0 victory.

Southampton's Sadio Mane (right) chests the ball past West Ham United's James Tomkins (left) during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London.Southampton's Sadio Mane (right) chests the ball past West Ham United's James Tomkins (left) during the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park, London.

“You don’t need that when you are at the bottom of the league and in the end we took full

advantage of it.”

It did take time, as Tomkins admitted.

“It is always awkward to play against 10 men because they sit back and defend so deep and sometimes it is hard to get through them,” said the 26-year-old battle- scarred defender.

“You have to be patient and in the second half we went at them with a bit more pace instead of being lethargic and predictable – that was playing into their hands.”

West Ham’s frustrations could easily have led to a stalemate or even a defeat in the past, but it is testament to the strength of this season’s squad that they were able to finally break down the visitors.

“We could have come out of that with a 0-0 draw in the past,” said Tomkins.

“Taking your chances when a team goes down to 10 men is vital. They are so short of confidence at the minute, but you have to take advantage of that and luckily we did just that.”

Slaven Bilic described his side as a ‘serious team’ after the win and asked about the prospect of a place in Europe next season, the normally reticent Tomkins nodded his head.

He said: “I think Europe is a realistic option now. The gaffer says we are a serious team and we are.

“We have to look at teams like Leicester City and see what they are doing and knowing that our players are as good as theirs.

“We have to build on what we have and keep our form. We go to Southampton on Saturday and they are an awkward team, but we are putting a gap between us and them and we don’t want them to close that on Saturday.

“Every game is a hard one as we have seen all season. Anyone can beat anyone, but we just want to keep going from strength to strength.

“I always say top 10 is good, but realistically we are looking to push further up the table now.”

If they can do it, a European place would be the perfect way to kickstart the first season at the Olympic Stadium.

For Tomkins himself it was another quality display, helping the team to clean sheet number 11 for the season in league and cup.

But the former Academy boy had his part to play going forward too, looking the most dangerous player in the first half with two shots on goal, one of which crashed into Enner Valencia’s head and flew over the bar.

“I should have done better,” he said with a smile. “The one with Enner in the middle, he should have nodded that in and I would have taken an assist for that! The second one I could have done better with, it was with my left foot.

“I am beginning to get into better areas on the pitch now and I am hopefully getting better with each game and I getting further forward and more confident now.”

Tomkins, who had 13 stitches in a head wound following the Liverpool game would probably not have made the starting line-up had Sam Byram been fit to play, but he went through the pain barrier of heading the ball and certainly played his part in the win.

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