Tomkins revels in U21 call

James Tomkins was "very chuffed and proud" to be named in the England squad for next month's UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

The young defender, who has had a great season for West Ham United, was one of 23 players who have been called into Stuart Pearce's squad for the finals in Sweden between 15 and 29 June. Before the curtain-raiser on the opening night against Finland in Halmstad, the centre-back, still uncapped at this level, could make his U21 debut against Azerbaijan in Milton Keynes on Monday week.

Tomkins, who has competed for his country at U15, U16, U17, U19 and U20 levels, is determined to take the chance alongside Mark Noble, who will play at his second U21 finals after being a key man in the Young Lions run to the 2007 finals in the Netherlands.

"I am very proud - I was well chuffed when I received the call," Tomkins told "It is obviously something I am very much looking forward to, joining up with the squad and hopefully getting the chance to represent my country at a higher level. It's exciting and all I hope is that I may get a chance and show what I can do."

Being given the chance to shine by ex-Hammers left-back Pearce is a fitting reward for the mature performances this season that have belied Tomkins' relative inexperience. The 20-year-old credits the chance Gianfranco Zola has given him in the first team for leading him to be considered for national duty. He played 15 times in all this campaign, having also got eight games under his belt during a loan spell at Derby County.

"I do feel with every match I played for West Ham this season, I grew into my game more and more and this has helped me get a chance to play a higher level for England. As well as trying to play my best, I am also surrounded by experienced and quality players here who have helped me no end and have given me more experience myself to push on."

Tomkins added he was still learning in each match and, having scored his first goal in the April win against Sunderland, is eager to keep adding other attributes to his game. "I was delighted to score a goal this season and if I can pop up and grab a goal to help the team get a result, then I will strive to do that.

"But my main job is as a defender and my priority will always be to try and stop the opposition scoring against us and that is what I will concentrate on first with the rest of the lads at the back.

"I am looking forward to the experience with the U21s this summer and it would be great to get a chance and relish the experience even more. It will also hopefully allow me to push on further, both for West Ham and England."