Much debate has risen this season over what our best centre back pairing is. Reid/Collins, Reid/Tomkins, Collins/Tomkins.
On the 29th December at the Madejski Stadium, a very strong case was made as to what should NOT be our preferred centre back pairing. In his second spell at the club, James Collins has struggled at times to produce the same calibre of performances he made in his first spell. His mistake at Reading that gifted Pavel Pogrebnyak in the 5th minute to score the winner was catastrophic.
Conceding that early against the newly promoted team through that kind of goal completely deflated the entire side and the next 85 minutes proved difficult to watch at times. This wasn’t Collins’ only high profile error this season with the Welshman committing an almost carbon copy of his mistake at Reading against Swansea in August. This mistake also deflated the team, resulting in a 3-0 loss.
Collins loss of pace is evident, however his return has also brought some solid performances, most notably the third round FA Cup tie at Upton Park against Manchester United where he helped himself to two brilliant goals. In the same game at the Madejski, James Tomkins played as a makeshift right back. Tomkins has also had a season that has contained many ups and downs. His performance against Reading certainly was a low point. He is a centre back. End of.
Allardyce continues to play him out of position where he clearly is not comfortable. He looks lost when he is placed in midfield and his wing back duties should also be relieved off him. His performances at centre back have seen him linked to may clubs in the past including Spurs and also Newcastle who were rumoured to be interested in him this January transfer window.
My advice is, keep hold of him. He is still young and he is a future West Ham captain. He possesses everything a centre back needs in today’s modern game and this was reflected in his selection for Team GB during the Olympic Games as well as his inclusion in the PFA Championship team of the year 2011-12. One thing that isn’t in any doubt is that Winston Reid has been our most consistent performer this season.
The New Zealand international has flourished this season in the Premier League and has cemented his place as the club’s first choice defender. When Reid first arrived from FC Midtjylland in August 2010, he took his time to adjust to the English game with many fans questioning if he had what it takes to become a top class centre half. That questioning has now vanished. We all crave another Bobby Moore style figure at the back but in reality, there is only one Bobby Moore.
What we have at the club is three centre half’s that are all capable of playing comfortably in the best league in the world, week in week out. However, three doesn’t go into two. Personally, I feel that our centre back pairing should be Winston Reid and James Tomkins. As much as I like James Collins as a player, I feel he lacks the pace that the other two have.
He may have more experience in the Premier League but Reid and Tomkins have shown signs of a strong partnership when Big Sam has placed them together. Joey O’Brien and Guy Demel are both adequate substitutes for the centre back role if those three are side-lined but it wouldn’t be a bad bit of business for Sam to look for another centre half as well as a left back! I think I speak on behalf of all Hammers fans when I say we don’t want another 4 goals in 10 minute spell like we did at the Emirates.