Ben Foster: West Brom keeper should replace Hart
By Dan Wheeler
If you think about it for a moment, timing is everything for a goalkeeper. Knowing precisely when to move, when to jump, when to dive, when to charge out to narrow the angle or play the emergency sweeper. Yes, you cannot be a decent ‘keeper without having an acute sense of timing: getting in the right place at the right time. For club and for country.
The West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster is become a master at timing. Anyone who has seen the 29-year-old perform for Albion and, before that, with Birmingham City will testify how good he is. He is so far removed from the tentative soul who could not establish himself as the rightful heir to Edwin van der Sar at Manchester United, all that may as well have been in a different lifetime.
Now, available for the England squad for the first time nearly two years, Foster has a shot at claiming the international throne. He could not have timed his return any better.
Foster’s road back to the top has been a rocky one at time. His five years at Old Trafford were marred by a bad cruciate ligament injury and two lengthy loan spells with Watford still did not enable him to get past Thomasz Kuszczak and even Ben Amos on a regular enough basis.
It was only when he joined Birmingham in May 2010 that he started to show what he could do and potentially what he could achieve. Foster was outstanding in what turned out to be his only season at St.Andrews as the club, despite winning the League Cup, began its descent into chaos and got needlessly relegated.
The financial fall out of that saw Foster loaned across the West Midlands to Albion that summer. Foster picked up where he left off and, in a better and more consistent team, thrived under the now England coach Roy Hodgson.
By then Foster had informed the then England manager, Fabio Capello, that he no longer wanted to play for his country. He had been left out of the squad for the 2010 World Cup and, despite winning a recall after the tournament, injuries had flared up again and Foster opted out of the international scene saying he wanted to prolong his club career as much as possible.
The fact that Joe Hart was immovable as the number one was also, no doubt, a disincentive. Hart was just that. Imperious. Magnificent. The best in the world. That did not look like changing. But it might just be about to.
While Foster has maintained his excellent form in the Baggies’ best run in the top flight for a generation, Hart’s halo is slipping. Mistakes have crept in. Accusations of cockiness abound. Even Roberto Mancini has had a pop in public.
Foster, by contrast, is pumping his stock higher and higher and high profile saves like the one he pulled off against Steven Gerrard from the penalty spot recently have only helped propel his profile still further.
Ironically Foster replaced Hart at Birmingham City and no-one thought he could match his predecessor’s impact at St.Andrews. They were wrong.
No-one thought England had a goalkeeper good enough to match Hart. They might be wrong again. Hodgson should pick him.