James Tomkins prepares for this weekend's final match of the season against West Bromwich Albion knowing that a few months back this was being looked upon as crucial decider. The fate of both clubs is now known and for the Eagles it's one of success as the 29 year old defender reflects on the achievement as a special time in his career.
“It’s right up there. Seven games without a goal and without a point is crazy when you think about that start to the season and we were the bookies favourites to go down at that time. So to turn that around since the manager has come in installing the believe in us and the commitment all the lads have shown throughout the season has been brilliant and is right up there for me considering how we started the season.”
The first top flight win came in October against Chelsea which was five games into Roy Hodgson’s reign as Palace manager and Tomkins is a big admirer of the effect that the experienced boss has had on the squad to guide them not only out of the bottom three but into a possible mid-table finish.
“It is certainly not an easy job coming into a club that hasn’t got a point and he has to try and turn that around. His work is done out on the training field and he has come in with all his knowledge and experience and everyone has enjoyed playing under him this year. We have always been threatening to go on the type of run that we have done recently and it’s all credit to the gaffer, his staff, everyone involved at the club and especially the players out on the pitch as well,” said Tomkins as he prepares for this Sunday’s game looking to complete the season on a seven match unbeaten finish.
“It’s massively important, you cannot step off the gas in this league with everyone fighting for points as we look to finish as high as we can in the table. Last week’s game against Stoke was massive because we still needed points and went there and got a great win, going there and winning in the situation they were in for me was just as good as the 5-0 win against Leicester. We won’t step off the gas against West Brom as we look to get up the table and continue our nice run.”
A Palace side that has Tomkins alongside Mamadou Sakho at the heart of the back four is still to suffer defeat with nine wins, three draws and only eight goals conceded being the stat; a smile comes across the Basildon born defender’s face when that gets mentioned to him.
“It’s a crazy stat really but it’s been nice to have been able to build a partnership with Mamadou and keep the continuity of playing with a centre half to get a relationship. I think we both complement each other, he brings all his experience and composure he has on the ball and it has been a pleasure to play with him but also the rest of the backline and goalkeeper.”
Tomkins made the move to south London in 2016 and this term he has been receiving plaudits for his performances that have played a major role in Palace’s survival, it’s a campaign he looks back on with much delight.
“I knew it was never going to be busy and you always have to fight for places, which brings that competitive edge and that’s what you need. This season I have been a mainstay which has been nice and I feel my game has come along, I have kept away from injuries to keep that continuity of playing games and now I am an experienced lad at the back because I always used to be the youngster but at 29 I feel I can step up to the plate and use my experience to help the boys along which I feel I have done this year.”
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