Tomkins rises to challenge

James Tomkins was singled out for special praise by Gianfranco Zola on Saturday with a promising performance against a Liverpool attack spearheaded by two world-class performers.

Despite the 3-0 scoreline that included a goal from a disputed penalty and a late third when the game was gone, Tomkins and his central defensive partner Matthew Upson stood up to the challenge of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres well. The homegrown Hammer was sporting a black eye from an accidental training ground collison with a team-mate but stood out more for his play.

The 20-year-old was solid in the tackle and commanding in the air, while time and again he stepped out from the back to read a forward pass and deal with it in a composed and confident manner that belied his years. It was a display that underlined why he had been voted the player of the month for April by fans - the first time he has taken the accolade.

Zola was mindful that England manager Fabio Capello was in the Boleyn Ground crowd and would have taken notice of Tomkins - an established Under-20 international - as one for the future. Mindful that it is early days, the manager said: "James Tomkins is playing well, week in, week out. Above all he looks like a veteran. So don't be surprised if soon you see him playing for the national team."