Tomkins thrilled to step up

James Tomkins has moved closer to his West Ham United debut after making it on to the bench for the New Year's Day match at Arsenal.

The talented 18-year-old central defender will hope to go one better in the FA Cup against Manchester City on Saturday, should manager Alan Curbishley again decide to give the England youth international a place in the matchday squad. Regardless, Tomkins is just thrilled to have had a taste, having been away with the first team on several occasions this season but not been involved.

"I have been in a few squads and not quite got on the bench," he said. "It has been good to go away with the squad - they are a great bunch of lads. They always give you confidence and pat you on the back. To get on the bench against Arsenal was a great thing.

"It was a dream to look out and see 60,000 people out there and you're on the bench. It was brilliant to see the new stadium. Obviously it is disappointing that we lost but it was a great experience. I phoned my dad and my brother late and they both come up to give me some support which is good. They are West Ham fans as well - they made it but they were disappointed we lost."

Tomkins, known as Tomka to his team-mates, said he had an idea the day before that he might be involved for the short trip to north London, especially given the run of injuries at the club. "Obviously you get an inkling," he said. "You try and prepare yourself as much as you can that you are at least going to be on the bench so I was doing that."

The experience was made all the sweeter because Jack Collison was also involved, with the 19-year-old midfielder actually getting the call to play late in the first half when Freddie Ljungberg limped off injured. "It was brilliant to see Jack out there," said Tomkins. "We have got a good set of lads at the club, a good Academy with good young players. He played well as well which will have done him the world of good - hopefully there will be plenty more to come."

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