Most West Ham fans are eager for the season to start, but one Irons supporter is more keen than most – centre half James Tomkins.

The former England U-21 international suffered a dislocated shoulder in training at the tail end of March, ruling him out for the rest of last season.

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However, the 26-year-old is looking forward to finally wearing the claret and blue shirt again, with optimism sky high for his side's Europa League qualifier against FC Lusitans of Andorra.

Tomkins said: “I’m massively excited, playing in Europe is massive. We all want to play on the top stages, playing against teams from different countries, different cultures, it can only improve you as a player so we are all really excited.

“There are 35,000 people coming. Not many other teams would sell that many tickets for a Europa League game.”

With many players from the Premier League still not due back for pre-season training for at least another week, the east Londoners are the only team in England’s top flight to have started preparations for the new campaign a week early.

Academy coach Terry Westley will be in the dugout for the sell-out match against FC Lusitans, as new boss Slaven Bilic is away with other senior players for a training camp in Cork.

Tomkins said that he hadn’t had a chance to see what methods Bilic uses, but believes the Croat will undoubtedly have success in east London.

The player said: “At the minute, he’s training with the lads. They are saying how good the training is.

“All good managers have that presence. As soon as they come into the room you can hear a pin drop.

“That is the kind of presence he has got. I have met him myself, briefly. He’s really excited to be involved with us this year; he has stated that in the press. I’m looking forward to working with him.”