1st Team Squad Goalkeepers: Ben Foster, Luke Daniels, Marton Fulop
Overview: Since Birmingham’s relegation, speculation about Foster’s destination has been rife, but I think West Brom is the right choice for him at the moment. In the future he may get his chance at one of the clubs aspiring for league titles or Champions League football, but I think he needs a little more time away from the dazzling limelight of the Premier League’s giants. Foster has done extremely well to rehabilitate his reputation following his exit from Man Utd. Last season, he was one of Birmingham’s standout performers despite their relegation and with all due respect to the Championship, he deserves to play Premier League football. I think the Hawthorns is a good destination for him because it’s an environment that will afford him the chance to make the occasional mistake without him being torn to shreds by the media. At Arsenal, Man Utd or any of the other big-hitters, any blip will be highlighted and all the work he has put in to rebuilding is self-confidence could be blown away in an instant.
I think there will be a few more blips on Fosters route back to the top, but I do believe he can make it back to the top. His reflexes rank favourably with the top goalkeepers in the country and his attitude and work ethic come across well. For me, his handling is a little too untidy at the moment for the leagues most demanding clubs, but at West Brom it’s something he can work on. I’ve also raised questions about his agility in the past and I’d like nothing more than to be proved wrong this season. That in itself is something of a misnomer, because his agility is good, but I wonder about the spring in his legs. In my opinion, he sometimes seems to struggle to get off the ground and although it probably only costs him a couple of inches, these are the margins that make all the difference at the highest level. His decision to make himself unavailable for England was a curious one, but if it helps him in his quest to improve, than the national team may yet benefit some time in the future.
In the days before the start of the new season, the Baggies moved to reinforce their goalkeeping options and although the signing of Marton Fulop won’t set pulses racing amongst fans, it’s a sensible signing that could yet prove to be very well-judged. Fulop has top flight experience and despite never really holding down a first team place at that level, he’s also done very little wrong. He’ll be more than adequate when called upon.
Worst case scenario: Foster has suffered a few serious injuries and any extended absence this season leaves West Brom very exposed. Daniels has played very little first team football and his ability to handle Premier League football at this stage in his career would very much be in doubt leaving the Baggies in a vulnerable situation.
What will probably happen: Foster will continue to develop and become an important part of West Brom’s season before he gets another chance at a bigger club at the start of the 2012 season. Fulop will be an able deputy when called upon, but in an ideal world, Roy Hogdson won’t want to have to call upon him too often.