Tomka's vote of thanks

James Tomkins paid tribute to everyone from his parents to his West Ham United team-mates to Academy director Tony Carr after scoring his first senior goal for the Hammers.

The England Under-20 defender, who has been in imperious form during the club's recent five-match unbeaten run in the Premier League, powered a header past Craig Gordon to help the Hammers to complete a 2-0 victory over Sunderland at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday.

For Tomkins, who turned 20 on Sunday 29 March, the goal was a reward for not just himself but also the many people who have invested time and effort in his football career since he joined West Ham at the age of eight.

The most important of those people are Tomkins' parents, who drove endless miles from the family home in Basildon to the club's Little Heath Academy base.

"My Mum and Dad were at the game and it was obviously a moment that I need to thank them a lot for. Over the years they have taken me to training and my goal was for them."

The defender, who has formed part of a back-five that have conceded just one goal in their last five matches, also thanked Academy director Tony Carr and his staff for their work in turning him from a promising youngster into a Premier League footballer.

"You can see the challenge from the players that have come through at the club, these massive players like [Michael] Carrick, [Joe] Cole and [Rio] Ferdinand. They are brilliant players and Tony Carr has a lot to do with it. He manages the youth team. A lot of the staff are brilliant in terms of boosting your confidence and giving you your chance here."

Injuries have meant Tomkins has been partnered by both captain Lucas Neill and Matthew Upson in recent weeks, while the loss of Jonathan Spector on Saturday saw the ball-playing centre-back switch to an unaccustomed right-back role.

The youngster, whose goal was his first since scoring twice for England's Under-19s against Germany in March 2008, said the experience of playing alongside experienced internationals was of great benefit to his game, as was the chance to work under first-team coach and former Scotland defender Steve Clarke.

"The two lads have got great experience as have a lot of the other lads. Clarkey has come in and he's been brilliant for me. The gaffer has given me my chance as well so I've got to credit a lot of people. I'm going to keep learning from the good players who are at the club.

"With Steve, if there is an area of the game on which I need to improve, he is brilliant for me. He has played in my position and has bags of experience. The gaffer gives everyone confidence and has got everyone playing nice football which all the fans want to see. They've changed things round and been like a breath of fresh air since they came in for all the players."