Mancienne praises new JT

Michael Mancienne believes new England team-mate James Tomkins can excel at the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

The Chelsea defender has been learning alongside England captain John Terry at Stamford Bridge this season but is relishing the prospect of a new partnership at international level with James Tomkins. Mancienne lined up alongside the West Ham United youngster at the heart of the England rearguard in the 7-0 friendly thrashing of Azerbaijan last week and both could keep their place for tonight's finals opener against Finland.

Tomkins, who was making his debut at U21 level, even played a part in Mancienne's first-minute goal, with the Blues man smashing the ball into the net after the West Ham player was only just denied. With Steven Taylor out of the tournament and Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha struggling through injury, Tomkins and Mancienne could be paired again when things get started in Sweden.

Mancienne, 21, said he would have no reservations about partnering the young Hammer again in Halmstad. "I thought he did really well against Azerbaijan and put in a very strong debut, to be honest," said the Blues defender, who lined up against Tomkins when Chelsea won 1-0 at the Boleyn Ground on 25 April.

"I thought he was very good. We definitely both like to bring the ball out from the back and after a performance like that I was buzzing for him." A regular member of the England U19 squad over the last two seasons, Tomkins made a seamless transition to U21 football against the Azerbaijanis, looking comfortable in defence and threatening regularly from set pieces in attack.

Mancienne urged U21 coach Stuart Pearce not to be afraid of picking younger members of his squad in Sweden, including Tomkins, who only turned 20 in March but made 15 league and cup appearances for the Hammers last season.

"It depends if they're playing first-team football or not. If they are then they have that confidence and I don't think there is a massive gap between U19s and U21s. People playing with that confidence can just step in and carry on from where they have left off with their clubs."