Tomkins relishing regular role

Hammers defender benefits from settled defence

Tomkins: Tightened up his game

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West Ham defender James Tomkins feels he has now established himself as a Premier League footballer.

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The 21-year-old centre-back made his first-team debut in March 2008, just a week before his 19th birthday, but made a shaky start to his senior career.

Tomkins earned an unwanted reputation for making costly errors following his first-team breakthrough but feels he has now tightened up his game.

The Basildon-born centre-half made 22 Premier League starts last season, usually alongside England international Matthew Upson.

Another eight league starts this term have taken Tomkins past 50 appearances for the Hammers and he believes playing regular first-team football has done wonders for his development.

"I feel I've matured a lot," he said. "Obviously last year I learnt a lot, and I've played quite a lot of games for my tender age.

"I just keep trying to improve and keep learning from the people around me. I've got an experienced back four that I play with."

Experienced

West Ham have boosted their survival hopes by taking eight points from their last four games, conceding just three goals in the process.

While Tomkins has put much of his recent improvement down to playing alongside senior players such as Upson and Tal Ben-Haim, he also credits the club's appointment of Wally Downes as defensive coach in November as a major factor in bringing some much-needed stability to the Hammers' defence.

"The other players I play with are experienced so it's good to learn from them," he added. "I'm just enjoying playing at the minute.

"We're defending well as a team and with the new defensive coach as a back four we've just improved and come together."