BY ANDREW MCSTEEN
James Tomkins returned to league action for Crystal Palace in yesterday’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa after recovering from a freak training ground accident at the beginning of the year.
Ahead of their clash against West Ham on January 26, the centre back fractured his eye socket in training. He had spent five months recovering before making an appearance from the bench.
“It’s delightful to see him back,” said Palace manager Roy Hodgson. “There’s no doubt when you watch James play we have to accept that we have missed his quality. We have missed him because he’s such a good quality player.”
Tomkins came on in the 73rd minute, replacing midfielder James McCarthy, lining up alongside Gary Cahill on the right side of central defence after Cheikhou Kouyate moved up to his more familiar central midfield role.
While Kouyate has been known throughout his club career as a midfielder, he has been a regular at centre back in SE25 over the past two seasons due to regular long-term injuries within the ageing Palace selection of central defenders including Mamadou Sakho, Scott Dann, Cahill and Tomkins amongst others.
“We’ve been lucky that Kouyate stepped in and done so brilliantly for us at centre back,” added Hodgson. “He didn’t come to the club as a centre-back, he came as a central midfield player but that’s really been forced upon us by the injuries to players like Tomkins and Sakho.”
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