Zola: Tomkins can be top Hammer
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola believes young defender James Tomkins can go on to join the club's illustrious list of greats. The 20-year-old has established himself as an important squad member and was voted the club's young player of the year last season. The Hammers have a reputation for bringing through young talent and current England stars Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard all began their careers there. A loan spell at Derby earlier this season added to Tomkins' education and Zola has backed him to excel at Tottenham."I believe he can be very good," he said. "He's only 20 but playing like a veteran. He is so confident. He is a very complete defender. "His attitude is very good and he has a lot of good competition for a place here and that has made him a better player. He can be a top defender." Seven other academy graduates have played under Zola this campaign, including Mark Noble, Freddie Sears and Jack Collison, who is currently out injured. "We have a group of good young players coming through and that is the key for us," Zola continued. "It creates the kind of environment where everybody is at their best and the results are proving me right. "We have players here who potentially can be as good as the others who have become champions now." Tomkins' immediate task will be to try to stifle Spurs skipper Robbie Keane at White Hart Lane. Zola said: "It will be a very interesting match for him because he won't be up against the normal type of striker."Robbie is a clever player who likes to move around and get the ball, so it will be a good test and I am looking forward to seeing how he copes."It will be important to control Robbie Keane and I am confident he can. I have a lot of faith in my players and he can do a good job."Zola saw John Terry develop from a raw prospect in Chelsea's reserves to England captain and Champions League stalwart. The Italian believes Tomkins may already be more advanced in his development than Terry was at the same age, but was quick to highlight the differences between the pair. "John Terry was a different story," Zola said. "He was more energetic and powerful, whereas Tomkins is calmer and more in control. "John Terry was full of energy and power and had to learn how to control himself. Tomkins is more relaxed. He thinks and is an intelligent player. He is more composed." The Basildon-born defender has already represented England at various youth levels and is currently in the Under-20 set-up. A call-up to Stuart Pearce's Under-21 squad could soon follow and England manager Fabio Capello has already shown he is not afraid to give young players a taste of full international action. Zola added: "I'm sure they are following him. There is a lot of competition for him but if he keeps playing the way he is playing, I'm sure he will be there."
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