It’s King James the first!
IT WAS a dozen years ago that a nervous eight-year-old first came to West Ham with a dream, writes DAVE EVANS. On Saturday, James Tomkins, who turned 20 just last week, fulfilled that dream when he rose above his former Hammers team-mate Anton Ferdinand
IT WAS a dozen years ago that a nervous eight-year-old first came to West Ham with a dream, writes DAVE EVANS.
On Saturday, James Tomkins, who turned 20 just last week, fulfilled that dream when he rose above his former Hammers' team-mate Anton Ferdinand to head home his first ever goal for the West Ham senior team.
It was a moment that will stay with the young defender for as long as he lives.
"It's a feeling I'll never forget," said Tomkins after Saturday's 2-0 victory over Sunderland. "It was brilliant and something that you always dream about as a kid - I'll never forget it.
"I've been here since I was eight-years-old and it's great to score."
It took 15 games for the Basildon-born youngster to register his name on the scoresheet, but in the nine appearances he has made during this campaign, he has established himself as an important part of the squad.
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Saturday saw him earn the Recorder man of the match award for the second match running as he put in a superb performance keeping Djibril Cisse in his pocket with some beautifully-timed tackles and solid clearances.
The youngster though is quick to praise others for his success: "Players like Matthew Upson and Lucas Neill have a lot of experience, as well as some of the other lads," he said.
"But if I wanted to ask about any area of my game that I was looking to improve then Steve Clarke is brilliant, because he is a player that's played in my position and has bags of experience.
"Obviously, the gaffer gives us a lot of confidence. He's got everybody playing nice football which is what the fans want.
"He's changed things round really - the two of them have been a breath of fresh air for us."
Tomkins has also been a breath of fresh air. With Welsh international James Collins fit again, few would have been surprised if he had replaced Tomkins, but Zola has confidence in his young charge.
"I feel that I'm playing well at the moment," said Tomkins. "I'm growing in confidence with every game. It's a big boost for me to start in front of James Collins, he's been playing well all season.
"I've been getting a good run in the team and I'm full of confidence, I just want to keep it going."
Tomkins is certainly keeping his feet on the ground: "Me and Junior scored today, but most important is the three points," he said modestly. "It keeps us in the hunt for seventh, that's what we're aiming for."
If the young defender keeps putting in performances like those of late then West Ham will certainly go close to that seventh spot and that coveted place in Europe.
And for a little eight-year-old stepping into the Chadwell Heath training ground with his parents all those years ago, that would have been another dream.
Tomkins' parents were there to see him thump in that header on Saturday and the youngster was overjoyed for them to see it.
"My parents were here today," said Tomkins. "I need to thank them a lot for putting up with me and taking me to training for all those years - that goal was for them!"
No doubt there is another eight-year-old arriving at West Ham right now with a dream to fulfil. Maybe in 2021, the Recorder will be telling you all about him too!