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West Ham United's James Tomkns set to become south Essex’s latest Olympian
JAMES Tomkins is expected to be south Essex’s latest Olympian this evening when Great Britain’s football team begin their London 2012 campaign against Senegal at Old Trafford.
The 23-year-old from Basildon is tipped to line up in central defence as Staurt Pearce’s side look to make a winning start in Group A in front of a sell-out crowd at the Theatre of Dreams.
The West Ham star started in central defence alongside Manchester City’s Micah Richards in a 2-0 friendly defeat to Olympic gold-medal favourites Brazil last week.
And he will now be keeping his fingers crossed that Pearce keeps faith with the same side which started in that defeat to the Samba boys at the Riverside Stadium.
If the former Chalvedon School boy does play he will follow in the footsteps of athletes Eamonn Martin and Matthew Yates in representing his hometown of Basildon at the Olympics.
And his former team-mate Tony Stokes says it will be an honour Tomkins richly deserves.
“It was really nice to hear about his call-up and I think he deserves it,” said Stokes, who played with Tomkins for the Hammers’ reserve side.
“He was named in the team of the year and helped West Ham get promoted, and now this will be the icing on the cake for him.
“It’s going to be tough for him because you have got the likes of Brazil and Argentina in the tournament, and I expect one of them to win it. “But it will be another good learning curve and I expect him to come out of the tournament a better player.”
Stokes, who now plays a starring role for Ryman Premier side Concord Rangers, has known Tomkins since he was 16 and used to drive him to West Ham’s training ground when they both lived on Canvey Island.
He said it was clear from a young age that Tomkins had the qualities to make it to the top of the game.
He said: “I’m a few years older than James and he was good enough to be playing for the under-18s alongside me when he was just 15.
“His size always helped him and he could play at centre back or right back depending on what the team needed.
“We actually travelled with the West Ham first team together for the first time under Alan Pardew.
“At such a young age he was already showing signs that he could play at the highest level and that has proved to be the case.”
Tomkins could come up against his West Ham team-mate Mohamed Diame tonight if he is picked to anchor the midfield for the African side.
Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge is tipped to lead the line for a Great Britain side also likely to boast Welsh stars Craig Bellamy and Ryan Giggs.
The game kicks-off at 8pm and will be screened live on BBC1.