Zola - Tomkins can be great
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola claims that James Tomkins can become a world class defender.
Last Updated: 10/04/09 7:42pm
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola believes that James Tomkins has the potential to become a world class defender.
The 20-year-old, a product of West Ham's renowned academy, scored a goal in the Hammers' Premier League victory over Sunderland last Saturday.
Tomkins, who has been a first-team regular since returning from a loan spell at Derby, has impressed Zola with a maturity that belies his age.
"I believe he can be very good. He's only 20 but playing like a veteran. He is so confident. He is a very complete defender," he said.
"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 appeared for the West Ham first-team this season, a group of players Zola believes are crucial to his squad.
"We have a group of good young players coming through and that is the key for us," the Italian added.
"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."
The Hammers will travel to White Hart Lane for a London derby on Saturday and Zola believes the task of marking Robbie Keane will provide Tomkins with some more valuable experience.
He 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 witnessed a young John Terry progress through the ranks during his time at Stamford Bridge but is hesitant to draw comparisons between the current Chelsea captain and his latest prospect at centre-back.
"John Terry was a different story. He was more energetic and powerful, whereas Tomkins is calmer and more in control," he added.
"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."