Ben Foster: England's loss, Albion's gain
By Graham Hill
Ben Foster will continue to frustrate Roy Hodgson by happily continuing his international exile - despite producing a string of impressive displays in the Premier League. The West Bromwich Albion goalkeeper made it clear last year that he did not want to be considered for England duty any more.
Foster, formerly of Manchester United, was at Birmingham City at the time. They were in the process of being relegated to the Championship. Fabio Capello was England manager and making it clear that Joe Hart was his number-one choice in goal. Fast forward 18 months and Foster is at The Hawthorns where he spent a season on loan under Hodgson’s management.
So when Hodgson left to take charge of England as Capello’s successor, there were suggestions that Foster could be persuaded to change his mind.
Not a bit of it.
Foster’s decision had nothing to do with who the manager is or was. And he has no gripe with Hart - the pair are good friends. He simply took the view that he did not want to eat, breath and drink football seven days a week, sometimes 12 months a year. Especially if his role was that of a mere understudy.
Foster, 29, is a family man who switches off when he gets home. And that home is the Midlands. When it was clear that Foster would make his move from Birmingham a permanent one in the summer, clubs such as QPR were mentioned. But he did not want a move to London, and Albion were always favourites to sign him.
Steve Clarke is now feeling the benefit of having a top class goalkeeper who uses the international breaks to recharge his batteries. Hodgson even took a look at Foster playing to his best against Aston Villa before the World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Poland. But Foster says any attempt to bring him back into the international fold would be a waste of time.
Hodgson is now looking at Celtic’s Fraser Forster, Norwich City keeper John Ruddy and Birmingham youngster Jack Butland to fill the void. But Foster said: “I'm very happy with the situation. Roy knows my reasons why. I'm very settled with my family and it's as simple as that. I’ve said before what the reasons are and nothing’s changed on that.”
So there you have it. Albion’s gain is England’s loss.
But Foster knows that Hart is playing out of his skin - as he showed in Manchester City’s Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund. And Foster is more concerned with helping Clarke’s side become one of the surprise packages of this season.
He added: “The fact we go to places like Tottenham and Villa and get points - and play good football as well - is testament to how far we have come. But you look at defenders like Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley, they are so important. They’ve been that way since the middle of last season. They’re absolute warriors. You know they’re going to block everything, head everything, kick everything. They’ll always be in there fighting and it's nice to have two people like that in front of you.
“Of course hope Jonas can sort a new contract out at the club. He’s such an important part of our team. I think the chairman needs to sit down and lock them both in a room and hopefully get something sorted out. And it's people like Jonas we need to be keeping if we are going to be pushing on. I don't think there’s many better pairings in the Premier League. They play week in and week out, I don't think they've missed a game for a good long time. You take all those things into account and I'd much rather be playing with those two than the majority of defensive pairings.”
Foster says Albion look good up front too with the likes of Shane Long, Peter Odemwingie and on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku providing the threats.
He said: “We've got quite a few centre-forwards vying for that position, Fotune and Rosenberg as well. It's a position we’re looking quite good in. It's a case of looking and seeing how people are doing in training and picking them from there. That's the quality we've got in the team at the minute and you'd rather have it like that rather than someone feeling their position is safe. It keeps you on your toes a bit as well.
"Playing 4-5-1, there is only one position available. I suppose Peter Odemwingie can play on the wing as well but it's good. They’re all firing in training as well. That’s what is giving the gaffer such a headache and fair play to them, they are all trying to get into that one position.”