It is three years since James Tomkins was sold to Crystal Palace.

It seemed a bit of a confusing decision at the time, as he had performed effectively at both centre back and right back, which were arguably two problem areas at the time.

Three years on and many West Ham fans still miss him; being an academy graduate, who had endeared himself to the fans with his performances and become a fan favourite, his departure was always likely to have this effect – after all, he represented the Hammers 243 times.

While emotional factors certainly play a large part in Hammers fans still missing the defender, it can also be argued that there is a practical side to this.

Tomkins wouldn’t be a starter if he was here, which was among the reasons he left in the first place, but he would certainly be able to play a role for the Hammers.

Last season, for example, there were two distinct periods where we could have used the 30-year-old.

The first is during December when injuries to Ryan Frdericks and Pablo Zabaleta meant Michail Antonio had to play at right-back – this isn’t his natural position and if Tomkins had been at the club he could have filled in there, allowing Antonio to continue playing higher up the pitch.

The second is when Fabián Balbuena was injured, as he could have rivalled Angelo Ogbonna for a place at the heart of the Hammers defence alongside Issa Diop.

He is the kind of reliable and flexible defender that any club could use whenever there are injuries.

Though while he would have helped out, it would be unfair to expect the academy graduate to sit on the bench waiting for moments in the season where he is needed.

It is just that even after three years, there will be a place in the hearts of many West Ham fans where they will wish he hadn’t had to leave in the first place.