West Ham star excited as a schoolboy at prospect of Wembley trip
08:50 17 May 2012
Hammers defender James Tomkins will make his first ever visit to the new Wembley Stadium on Saturday when West Ham take on Blackpool in the play-off final.
The thought of playing at Wembley has got defender James Tomkins as excited as a small boy on Christmas Eve – quite fitting really because the one and only time he visited the famous stadium, he was only six-years-old!
Tomkins visited the old Wembley to see England take on Bulgaria in a warm-up for Euro ’96, but this is the first time he will be seeing the newly-refurbished stadium.
“I have never played at Wembley and I have never even been to the new stadium,” confirmed the defender. “It is just going to be unbelievable to play at the country’s home stadium.
“The atmosphere is going to be fantastic and I am really looking forward to it.”
Tomkins has been a part of the West Ham set-up since he was just seven and was an avid spectator the last time the club went through the play-offs.
“I went to the Ipswich play-off semi-final game and then the final in Cardiff, so I know what the occasion is like and the atmosphere was amazing,” said the 23-year-old.
Tomkins will start on Saturday on merit. In the past he has been in and out of the team, but this time round he has been one of the most consistent players for West Ham.
“I think this year I have come on a lot,” said Tomkins who has filled in at right back as well as in the midfield this term. “I have grown in confidence and become a man this season.
“I think with my performances this season, I have deserved to keep my place and I feel I am getting better and better. I don’t want the season to end really.”
Tomkins is likely to be partnered by Winston Reid on Saturday and it is a combination that the defender feels has worked well this season.
“I think we are both enthusiastic, young and eager. We complement each other really well as we have similar attributes.
“We can cover each other and we both feel we can play on the floor as well as being good in the air,” said Tomkins, who has adapted well to the different skills needed to play in the Championship.
“It is more physically demanding with so many games,” explained the defender. “You have to recover well and you feel that you are not always 100 per cent fit. Sometimes you can play three games in a week and that is a lot to ask really.
“In the Premier League you are going to get punished more often, but the fitness is the key difference. It is not necessarily easier, it is just that you have to show different attributes in your game.”
One attribute he has shown this season is his ability at set-pieces. Tomkins has scored four goals, including one in the 4-1 victory at Blackpool.
“We do a lot of set-plays in training and that is something that we have worked out this year,” said the defender.
“I have got on the end of quite a few of Matt Taylor’s and Mark Noble’s crosses, my timing has improved, and I am taking the ball well.
“We do work on them in training, but not as much as you think, but it is something that is important. We are not conceding so many either.
“I feel that when I go up, I do have a chance of scoring and that’s important because if you are going up half-hearted then there is no point in going up at all.”
For many, Tomkins has been the Hammer of the year this term and if the ball is delivered from a free kick or a corner in the last minute of Saturday’s final, then the defender will be relishing getting on the end of it.