Ben Foster: Where did it all go wrong?

Very few will be surprised to learn that Ben Foster has not been included in Fabio Capello’s provisional 30 man squad for the World Cup . In truth had the young Manchester United stopper received the call from the Head Coach there would have been uproar across the nation, that someone who had played so few games this season had been preferred to the likes of Joe Hart, David James and Rob Green.

Foster’s loan spell at Watford in 2006 earnt him wide recognition and praise and he was subsequently on standby for the finals four years ago. Many saw a promising talent emerging, one who would be sure to find his way into Capello’s thoughts for South Africa. What has cost Foster so dearly is his lack of first team opportunities and not taking advantage of those presented to him. There is no other explanation for his exclusion. Injury may have seen his career stutter somewhat since the last World Cup, but competing for the number one jersey with Edwin Van der Sar would always prove difficult.

Until this season, some would argue that Foster had not been given a fair crack of the whip at Old Trafford. Following his success with Watford, many expected him to stay put and challenge Van der Sar for a starting place. Instead, United brought in Tomasz Kuszczak and so he returned to Vicarage Road. Injuries thwarted any opportunities he would have had in 2008 however, he returned to prominence by helping United lift the 2009 League Cup with a match-winning display in the penalty shoot out.

It was off the back of performances such as this that Foster began this season rightly tipped as a candidate for the World Cup . With Van der Sar missing much of the early campaign through injury, the young keeper was presented with his opportunity to really stake a claim. However, his early form cost him dearly, with a number of crucial mistakes against Chelsea, Sunderland and Manchester City. It became a case of when and not if Van der Sar would be back to retake his place in goal.

Foster has thus seen his chances limited since Christmas. Indeed his last start for the first team was back in February against West Ham, where he did at least manage to keep a clean sheet. His disastrous early season form saw him fall down to third choice at Old Trafford, not even being guaranteed a place on the bench, with Kuszczak seemingly well thought of by Sir Alex. First team football seemed a million miles away and so perhaps a season on loan, similar to Joe Hart, would have served him well. His spell with Watford in the Championship had seen him to the brink of the England squad, and there is no reason to suggest that a similar situation, whether it had been in the Premier League or the Championship, would not have been just the tonic. His rumoured move to Birmingham can not come soon enough.

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