Tomkins looks to build on season of progress

TEENAGE defender James Tomkins is aiming to continue his first-team education next season after graduating to the West Ham starting line-up this year. Tomkins appeared in five of the Hammers final seven games following his Premier League debut against Ev

TEENAGE defender James Tomkins is aiming to continue his first-team education next season after graduating to the West Ham starting line-up this year.

Tomkins appeared in five of the Hammers' final seven games following his Premier League debut against Everton in March and was voted West Ham's young player of the year on the back of his mature displays at the heart of defence.

His smooth transition to the first-team was recognised by the club, who handed the 19-year-old a contract extension, and Tomkins has recently been seen modelling the club's new away kit.

The Basildon teenager, who grew up supporting the Hammers, admits that he could not have imagined such a rapid rise when he was first called up to the first-team squad two months ago.


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"It's hard to put the last couple of months into words," admitted Tomkins.

"When I got my chance it came as a surprise to me but I've had to take it as it comes and I've loved every minute of it."

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Despite his outward delight at reaching the West Ham team, Tomkins is determined not to slip off the radar and return to reserve team football next season.

Tomkins acknowledges that his starting place will come under threat from the club's four senior centre-halves, who missed most of the second half of the season at Upton Park.

An injury to Matthew Upson opened the way for Tomkins' first start at Goodison Park and with Danny Gabbidon, James Collins and Calum Davenport all hoping to return in the coming months, the young defender faces a battle to get into the match-day squad.

Having received a taste of regular first-team football this year, Tomkins reveals will do everything in his power to cement his position in the squad - but may be forced to leave the club on loan if his progress is blocked.

"I have ended the season playing regularly, which is going to hold me in good stead.

"But my objective is to get into the team again next season and to make a mark on this team. If that isn't right, and if I go out on loan then so be it."

Yet Tomkins remains committed to the Hammers and his young player of the season award has convinced him that he can follow in the footsteps of previous academy defenders including Rio Ferdinand (left).

"There are a lot of good players [who have won the award] and to be among them is a great honour," Tomkins said. "There are a lot of big names and it feels good to be in the same bracket as them.

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