James Tomkins: Talentspotter

West Ham and former England under-21 hopeful James Tomkins talks to FourFourTwo back in July 2008.

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Tonker. I've just been called it for a few years now and can only think it's because of the bloke out of Mike Bassett: England Manager. I don't think I've ever been called James in my life!

Club supported as a boy
I grew up around West Ham and I've been there since I was eight, so it's always been important to me. The club has got such a great history, and when it comes to centre-backs there are plenty you can look to for inspiration. Obviously I never saw Bobby Moore play but what he achieved at the club and with England was incredible. I also saw Rio Ferdinand when he was here as a young player.

As a defender you need great heading ability and I think that's a big strength of my game. I also like to think I'm more than just a defender – I'm composed with the ball at my feet and can play it on the floor, too. 

My left foot can always do with improving and strength-wise I'm not quite there yet, but I'm still a teenager playing against guys who have been around for years – so the more I play in the Premier League, the stronger I'll become.

I play a bit like...
That's a tough one. Some say I play a bit like Tony Adams but I reckon he was a lot harder than I am. Others have said I play like Jonathan Woodgate, which is a massive compliment.

Making my debut this season was a major highlight. Alan Curbishley told me I was playing a couple of hours before the match against Everton at Goodison Park in March and the buzz was amazing. West Ham have had a lot of injuries this season but it means that a lot of the young guys, like me, Freddie Sears and Jack Collison have chances to show what we can do and I don't think we've let anyone down. Scoring twice for England under-19s in a friendly against Russia earlier this season was fantastic too.

Not too many, thankfully. Being injured is never great, but then no one likes that. It's just something you have to deal with as a footballer.

Toughest opponent
Obafemi Martins and Mark Viduka were superb when Newcastle came to Upton Park. Viduka has huge physical presence, but he's also a very clever footballer. Martins was so quick and athletic. They worked really well together.

Best player played with
I played with Teddy Sheringham in a testimonial match and I've trained with Carlos Tevez – both are superb, and the sort of players that any young player can't help but learn from. During the match with Teddy, he came over when he got taken off and gave me the captain's armband, which was a great feeling.

Biggest influence
My parents have been a massive influence on me – if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be where I am now.

Biggest practical joker
There are a few. Mark Noble likes a little joke and so does Bobby Zamora. The worst is Jimmy Walker. He has a little column in the programme and he's always ripping people for what they've been wearing during the week.

I'm driving a Ford Focus Sport.

I don't get to the cinema that often, but I think the last film I saw was I Am Legend. From memory it started off well but the ending killed it.

Jessica Simpson – I've always had a soft spot for her.

Holiday destination
It would probably be Turkey. I've had a few family holidays there and have always loved it.

If I hadn't been a footballer...
Football has always dominated my life, even when I was at school, so if I hadn't made it as a player I would have got involved in the coaching side of things.

In five years' time...
I would like to be captaining West Ham – that would be a dream come true.

From the July 2008 issue of FourFourTwo.