The Big Interview - James Tomkins

James Tomkins is having a season to remember with West Ham United.

The first half of 2011/12 saw the young centre-back cement his place in the starting XI with a series of outstanding performances at the heart of the back four, earning widespread praise and seeing the 22-year-old rewarded with a new long-term contract.

In recent weeks, injuries and suspensions have seen Tomkins pressed into an unaccustomed defensive midfield role. He has responded with two superb performances as the short-handed Hammers defeated Millwall and earned a draw with Southampton.

Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Southampton was an incident-packed match, wasn't it?

"Yeah it was. The  crowd was obviously loud and the atmosphere was good and all in all I think we're quite happy with a point considering we went down to ten men.

"I thought it was a penalty [when Billy Sharp fouled Mark Noble] but we could have had a couple more penalties so that was disappointing as well, but all in all I don't think we can have too many complaints about Matt Taylor's red card.

"Their players are going to aggravate the situation. That's always going to happen but you've just got to get on with it. I think it was the lad's [Sharp] reaction to Mark, as he thought it was a dive. He was in his face winding the situation up. He shouldn't have done that but then again our players have run over and we need to keep our heads at times with things like that.

"We had a couple of yellow cards after that but thankfully we didn't have anybody else sent-off because it was tough enough as it is!

"One of the other penalty appeals was from my header at a corner. I saw the guy palm it with his hand and that was a stone-waller for me. The other one, you have seen them given. We did get a penalty so I suppose he wasn't going to give two."

It was a heroic effort to play for more than 70 minutes with ten men. You held on to the lead for 55 minutes - did you think you could see it through?

"Definitely. They obviously dominated possession but they weren't causing us too much trouble in the second half. In the first half, Greeny pulled out a couple of world-class saves [from Sharp and Rickie Lambert] and kept us in the game. We defended well.

"The Millwall game was good for us in terms of practice playing with ten men so we know we could have done it. We didn't in the end and it was a bit disappointing."

How have you enjoyed your new midfield role?

"It's different for me. The gaffer has put me in there twice thinking I would just screen the back four and both times we've had a man sent-off. It's been a bit different.

"He's had the faith to keep me there as part of a central midfield two and I think I've been working well with Mark [Noble]. I've been looking at what he's doing and learning from him and I feel he's helped me through it. I feel like it's OK.

"Don't get me wrong, it's tiring in there with ten men, but I've enjoyed it."

What has Mark Noble been doing so well in the matches against Millwall and Southampton?

"I think it was playing with me, to be fair! No, seriously, he's obviously been brilliant and I appreciate how much he runs around now I'm playing with him in central midfield. He's full of energy and desire and I've been trying to thrive off that and get it into my game. I need the legs that he's got and hopefully I'll get there.

"He's taken the captain's role upon himself and he's shown that he has the experience at this young age to take the team with him. People were looking at him and the energy he was putting in and they got right behind him. He's been brilliant for myself and he's helped me through these last two games, as he has helped everyone else."

How do you see the promotion race now?

"It's closed up again but we have a game in hand and we need to take advantage of that. I think it's a big boost for us to show what we can do with ten men. With eleven, we looked so far on top we could have been two or three goals up. We're looking promising.

"The sending-off killed it so to get a point with ten men was a great result, really."

The new signings look sharp, don't they?

"Yes, the new boys have come in and look sharp and full of energy and enthusiasm. That's what we need at this stage of the season.

"Games are going to come thick and fast and we're going to have a lot of matches, but the squad looks bigger now and hopefully this last push towards the end of season, we can keep on top."

You now have a week to re-charge the batteries before going to Blackpool next Tuesday night?

"It'll be nice for me personally because Saturday would have been a quick turnaround. We know we have that game coming up so we'll need to prepare for that."