James Tomkins will report back for duty at Chadwell Heath today full of confidence after a successful first run-out of the season in the reserves' 2-0 home victory over Portsmouth.
The homegrown defender had not figured in a competitive contest since a medial knee ligament injury while with England Under-19s in July. He had hoped to return earlier but had a brief setback before proving his fitness in the last couple of weeks. He underlined that with the full 90 minutes against Portsmouth and was more than solid, especially up against two lively forwards in David Nugent and Ben Sahar.
"I'm well pleased to be back in action and playing my first game of the season at Upton Park," said Tomkins, who has been encouraged by the chances given to Jack Collison and Freddie Sears under Gianfranco Zola. "I've had a lot of frustration with the injuries I've had so I was just delighted to get a full 90 minutes under my belt. I've been a bit unlucky but, touch wood, I'm back now and I can stay injury-free."
Tomkins' frustration was heightened because of the strong way he finished the 2007/08 campaign with six first-team appearances. That left him on a high for the summer, before the setback on duty with his country. "I did my knee pre-season while I was away with England. Then, when I came back, things came in twos like they do. I ended up having a hamstring injury as well when I first got back and played in a practice game at Chadwell Heath."
Things are looking up and Tomkins is focusing on challenging Calum Davenport - his assured defensive partner in the Portsmouth success - and fit again Jonathan Spector for the right to put pressure on Matthew Upson and James Collins in the first-team picture.
His confidence will be boosted by the way he responded to a strong Nugent challenge that he admitted initially "scared me a bit". The 19-year-old added: "Luckily I've been working on my physical side while I've been out injured. As soon as he did it I was hoping it wasn't serious one. Thankfully it's just a little niggle and I've been lucky."