Tomkins: Curbs exit has helped me improve

Hammers defender James Tomkins believes that his development as a Premier League performer has been aided by Alan Curbishley's departure from Upton Park

By JONATHAN CLEGG

Hammers defender James Tomkins believes that his development as a Premier League performer has been aided by Alan Curbishley's departure from Upton Park.

Curbishley quit as West Ham manager last September following a row over the club's transfer dealings, clearing the way for Gianfranco Zola to take over as Hammers boss alongside No2 Steve Clarke.

The former Chelsea duo have overseen a remarkable transformation at the Boleyn Ground, guiding the club away from relegation danger with a brand of entertaining, free-flowing football.


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Zola's determination to return to the club's traditional style of attractive, pass-and-move football is in stark contrast to the dull, defensive-minded tactics adopted by Curbishley.

And Tomkins has revealed that the new emphasis on keeping possession has helped him improve as a player.

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The homegrown centre-half made his debut under Curbishley last year, but has emerged as a first-team regular in recent months, starting the club's last 10 matches.

He said: "I think the way we're playing football has improved this year. It can be pretty football at times, which Zola and Clarke encourage and it's what the fans want to see.

"I definitely prefer it - it gives you so much confidence when you've got good players around you and everyone's keeping the ball.

"That's what we're trying to improve. Even in training, you can notice the way that we keep it on the floor. We're all trying to work hard and improve the way we keep possession and the fans have noticed that change."

The England Under-20 defender admits that his progress this season has also been boosted by a loan spell at Derby County in December.

Tomkins played eight matches for the Championship club and reveals that the experience helped prepare him for the physical challenge of playing in the top flight.

"The Championship's a really tough league but I played a lot of games at Derby and I think I matured a lot and it's made me a better player," Tomkins said.

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