Gale lauds U21 pair

Tony Gale believes West Ham United youngsters Mark Noble and James Tomkins will take a huge amount from England's run to the European Under-21 Championship final.

Noble captained the side coached by former Hammer Stuart Pearce, while Tomkins continued his meteoric rise by completing a full 90 minutes in the group stage draw with eventual winners Germany.

Despite going down 4-0 at the final hurdle to the Germans in Sweden on Monday evening, Gale insists both Noble and Tomkins should hold their heads high.

"I think, at the end of a long season, it is very difficult to try and peak for a final," said the former West Ham defender. "We did okay in the rounds leading up to the final but I think you saw a tired performance in the final itself.

"Mark Noble and James Tomkins have been excellent for us this past season, but I thought Nobes looked a bit tired in the final. That's not saying that I don't think he's a good player. I think he's an excellent player and I think he's going to be great for us next season.

"The experience will stand both of them in good stead."

Noble, who played his 20th and final match for the U21s in the final, was an influential figure both on and off the pitch, inspiring his team-mates with his fine midfield play and exuberant attitude.

Gale believes the 22-year-old could have a similarly important role to play for Gianfranco Zola's side this coming Barclays Premier League season.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Nobes kicking on next season because he's got it in his locker to be a top-class midfield player, wherever he plays," said Gale. "He played at the tip of the diamond system last season but he can play anywhere because he's a good footballer."

Likewise, Gale also tipped fellow central defender Tomkins to kick-on from his experiences in Scandinavia, urging the 20-year-old to show more of his undoubted talent with the ball at his feet in 2009/10.

"James Tomkins has a chance this season to cement his place alongside whoever he partners, whether it be James Collins, Matthew Upson or Danny Gabbidon," added the Sky Sports pundit. "We have got four players vying for those two places but I'm expecting another good season from James.

"I'd like to see him do more with the ball. He's a good defender and quick across the floor and doesn't mind putting his body on the line, but I'd like to see him bring it out in the tradition of West Ham defenders. Believe you me, I think there is more to come from James, because he's a good footballer as well."

While Noble and Tomkins are Gale's primary concerns, he also had words of support for coach Pearce, who spent two seasons at the Boleyn Ground between 1999 and 2001.

Gale believes the 47-year-old, who has signed a new two-year deal to manage the U21s, can play his own role in turning youngsters like Tomkins into international stars of the future.

"Pearcey is important to their development," said Gale. "He took a little bit of stick over the final but I thought that was out of order. I think the FA must be grooming him for the England job after Fabio Capello, and this was a good way of looking at him under a pressure situation. This was one and he dealt with it well in his post-match interviews.

"There is not a lot you can do as they say goals change games and they did in that final. Once we were chasing the game at 2-0, the Germans picked us off. Stuart will have learned from that and he was big enough to admit that afterwards - not that he made mistakes but that it was a learning curve for him. If you're going to learn, you want to do it in those tournaments and not the real World Cup."