James Tomkins has pledged to be ready to take his chance when the first-team call comes his way at West Ham United.
The closest the England Under-19 defender has been to date is twice being an unused substitute - on New Year's Day away to Arsenal and then again for last Saturday's home win against Blackburn Rovers. Tomka, as he is known to his team-mates, is due to represent his country again next Tuesday in a high-profile friendly against Russia but he first has his sights set out on a run-out against Everton this weekend.
"I am hoping for an appearance soon," he said. "I am going to keep working hard, keep playing well for the reserves and working hard in training in front of the gaffer and just keep going. That is all I can do." Tomkins' hopes have been raised by the manager's faith in young talent this season with Anton Ferdinand (23), Jonathan Spector (22) and Mark Noble (20) all first-team regulars while Kyel Reid, Jack Collison and, to great effect last weekend, Freddie Sears have all had a chance.
Tomkins added: "I want to follow in Freddie's footsteps. He got his chance and he took it. I am still waiting for mine but I will be ready for it when it comes." The Basildon-raised centre-back underlined his burgeoning credentials in midweek reserve action when up against established top-flight performer Dave Kitson. Although the Reading man got a late consolation in a 2-1 win for United, it was his only bit of a joy on an evening where Tomkins and his fellow defenders were firmly on top.
"Kitson is a great player. I learnt a lot against him and it was a good tester for me. Obviously he has played a lot of first-team games and he is a proven good player. He makes lots of good runs and is very intelligent. I love playing against people like that. It tests me and lets me show what I can do. The whole team did brilliantly. Reading had a really strong team out but, from the word go, we were all up for it."
Tomkins demonstrated that in tandem with Bondz 'Gala, winning plenty of aerial challenges and showing an eye for an interception or timely block. He even coped with taking an unintentional whack from giant Reading defender Ibrahima Sonko "I got a bump on the head from Sonko. He's a big lad but it was just a little clash. I will be all right," the 18-year-old said. Indeed, there was no danger of the young defender letting it hinder his progress. "I want to keep going, gain experience and put myself to the test," he concluded.