James Tomkins was officially unveiled as a Crystal Palace player yesterday afternoon, much to the dismay of West Ham’s fanbase.
The central defender has been on the Irons for just a shade under 20 years having joined them as a seven-year-old schoolboy. Together with Mark Noble, he has steadily climbed the ranks within the East London club ever since, making his decision to up sticks and hop south of the river an extremely difficult one on a personal level.
As he edges towards what are likely to be the best years of his career, regular first-team football was unsurprisingly at the top of his priority list and having worked with Alan Pardew when the now Palace boss was in charge at West Ham in the early noughties, it should probably come as little surprise to see him plumping for a switch to a familiar face whilst still maintaining a base in the country’s capital city.
Having been used largely on the right-hand side of the West Ham defence by Slaven Bilic last season, Tomkins is keen to play regularly at the heart of a back four and with Damien Delaney now just days short of his 35th birthday, there have almost certainly been plans made to allow Tomkins to assume the Irishman’s place seamlessly over the next 12-18 months.
Some will continue to argue that £10 million is an “inflated fee” for a defender who couldn’t get guaranteed first-team football with his previous employers, but to look at the scenario so simplistically would be foolish. In truth, it is a deal which serves as good business for all parties involved; Palace get a very solid defender at a good age, Tomkins gets regular games in his favoured position and West Ham find themselves suitably reimbursed for letting him go.
Not that it has stopped a few pixelated tears being shed over the much-loved defender’s departure from the bubble blowers on Twitter, they’re an emotional bunch over in East London.