Goalkeeper isn’t often a position that is associated with young talent. Whilst the best players in the world, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka for example, are all spritely youngsters, the best shot stoppers in football are often around the 30 mark, if not older. It may seem odd therefore to rewind back to 2005, when Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd was singing the praises of Manchester United’s 22 year old goalkeeper Ben Foster, exclaiming ‘he’s better than current keeper Edwin Van Der Sar.’
It was no doubt a bold statement by Boothroyd, however not one that was unfounded. The young keeper, on loan at Vicarage Road from Old Trafford, had performed wonders in a season to forget for the Hornets. Despite his side being relegated, it was a common occurrence to see Foster on Match of the Day performing miracle after miracle, doing his best to keep the Hertfordshire club in the Premier League. So what has happened to Ben Foster?
Foster received the perfect opportunity to stake his claim for the number one Manchester United jersey at the beginning of this season as a finger injury kept Edwin Van Der Sar on the sidelines. Unfortunately for the England man, his performances were not of the standard that we became accustomed to during his time at Watford and several high profile mistakes such as those against rivals Manchester City and Sunderland have meant his name has once again dropped down the pecking order behind Tomasz Kuszczak. Therefore is it time for Foster to move on?
I personally do not believe that it would be the worst idea for Foster to move away from Old Trafford. When asked to step up to the mantle for the Red Devils, his inexperience has shown and you have to believe the pressure of playing for such a huge club is affecting him. The experience that Foster received during his time at Watford was no doubt priceless and I am sure a move away from United, even if only a loan move, would provide Foster with the first team experience that he both needs and deserves. Foster has emphasised his wish to stay at Manchester United to prove to himself that he can play for a top European club, however, as highlighted earlier, the Englishman is only 26 and therefore there is nothing to stop him playing for a top club in the future, maybe even Manchester United.
I also believe that a move can only benefit Foster’s World Cup hopes. Although he has been a firm favourite of Capello’s, having started both of the last two matches, he must be concerned as he watches his rivals Paul Robinson and Joe Hart play week in week out. His plane ticket to South Africa may end up be hindered by his unwillingness to leave Old Trafford.
I am confident in the abilities of Ben Foster and still believe he is a great talent with a great future; however I feel that his career has hit somewhat of a crossroads. Foster, who has recently spoke of his frustration at Old Trafford, should make a decision sooner rather than later.