Foster’s improved form a big positive for West Brom

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West Brom

1st Team Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (29), Boaz Myhill (29), Luke Daniels (24)

Birmingham’s failure to climb the ladder back to the Premier League was greeted with glee at the Hawthorns and it was down to more than local rivalry. It meant they got to sign Ben Foster permanently and in a season of transition, having a tried and trusted goalkeeper is a good foundation as Steve Clarke steps into the considerable shoes of Roy Hodgson.

Foster has always had lightening reflexes. At times however, they’ve been undermined by a lack of agility and some clumsy handling. There are no doubts that these remain a concern, but in the closing months of last season, Foster performed in a way that suggested he’s getting on top of his issues. He kept ten clean sheets and was a huge part of the successful season West Brom enjoyed last term. If he maintains his progress, he could finally deliver upon the potential he promised prior to struggling under the pressure of a move to Manchester United.

Behind him, the Baggies aren’t doing too badly. Boaz Myhill is a solid back-up. He’s not always the most easy on the eye, but the talent is obvious and he gets the job done more often than not. He’s not the most athletic of goalkeepers, but he’s got plenty of experience and turning to him shouldn’t cause too many concerns.

Luke Daniels is the third string. He has been a Baggy since 2004, but hasn’t made an appearance for the club. He has relied on loan spells for his playing time and he’ll probably face more of the same in the next few months.

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Five quality goalkeepers who could be on the move this summer


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The rumour mill is cranking into top gear as the summer transfer window opens. Here’s a look at five goalkeepers who could (and in some cases possibly should) be on the move in coming weeks.

Hugo Lloris (Lyon)

The stories about Lloris’s imminent departure from the Stade Gerland rival the ‘Cesc Fabregas to anywhere’ rumours in terms of tedium and frequency. Every summer the talk is this will be the one where he finally leaves. Tottenham have been linked, but with Brad Friedel still looking youthful and spritely, is it necessary? Immensely talented and clearly capable at the highest level, Lloris would be a great acquisition. But a lack of vacancies at Europe’s elite clubs suggests he might stay put. Aside from a couple of the Italian giants, very few of Europe’s top dogs are looking for an upgrade. Another season on the banks of the Rhone may be required until the right job comes along.

Johannes Hopf (Hammarby)

A new season is underway in Sweden and once again Hopf continues to impress. He was immense in ensuring Hammarby didn’t endure the indignity of going down to the third tier of Swedish football and has brought that form into the club’s improved form of the new campaign.

His agility, handling and leadership mark him out as a goalkeeper who can succeed at a higher level. He has the build and composure to prosper in the English game and it has clearly been noticed by the scout. Three Premier League teams and a host of top Championship sides were close to making a move last summer and after a strong finish to last year’s Superettan and brilliant start to this campaign, that enthusiasm is only likely to have swelled. Celtic and Hoffenheim have also been tracking the 25 year old and a move abroad must surely be imminent.

Ben Foster (Birmingham)

It was meant to be simple. If West Brom where to stay up and Birmingham failed to get promotion, Foster was supposed to stay at the Hawthorns by making his loan move permanent. The Blues unintentionally kept their end of the bargain, but the departure of Roy Hodgson has complicated matters. The 2011/12 season was a campaign of blissful simplicity and safety for the Baggies, but without Uncle Roy, next season will lack the same comfort. Birmingham may want to take him back, but with the up and coming Jack Butland within their ranks, they may also be tempted to cash in.

Last season was a good one for Foster. So much so that there was hope he would again make himself available for international selection again. It hasn’t happened yet, but he may be of interest to teams further up the Premier League food chain. He looks a more composed and reliable keeper in recent times. Combined with his excellent reactions, he has a lot to offer. The likes of Old Trafford may not come calling, but another big club may be tempted to swoop.

Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio)

Ochoa’s move to the Corsican club was a curious one, but after an excellent season, it now looks a shrewd one. The Mexican was aware of the need to rebuild his stock after his part in a banned substance fiasco at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He and his fellow suspects were cleared of wrong-doing, but possibly aware of the ‘no smoke without fire’ attitude to drug rumours, packed his bags to start afresh in Ligue 1. He openly spoke about Ajaccio being a stepping stone to bigger and better things and the gamble seems to have worked. He looks to have achieved his aims and after playing a vital role in keeping the club in Ligue 1, he is attracting interest. His reactions and agility are absolutely world-class and have surely been noticed by clubs further up the food chain.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Mochengladbach)

Ter Stegen is one of the several young and immensely talented goalkeepers emerging from Germany. The 20-year-old has been linked with Barcelona to provide back-up and competition to Victor Valdes who hasn’t been flawless in the last few months. His appetite to benchwarm for the next couple of years will be slight, but the prospect of positioning himself perfectly to take one of the top goalkeeping berths in world football must also be tempting.

Brave, athletic and an organiser, he is a hugely exciting prospect. His international debut didn’t go so well after the Mannschaft conceded five goals against Switzerland. Disappointingly, Joachim Loew left him out of the squad heading for Euro 2012, but he is a player for Germany’s future.

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Sir Alex: 25 years of Manchester United Goalkeepers

Manchester United manager

A quarter of a century.
25 years during a time when not lasting 25 weeks is sadly common.
Sir Alex Ferguson has accumulated a stunning array of silverware in the course of his reign at Manchester United and – even if we play football for millenia to come – is destined to be remembered as one of the greats. The praise has flowed freely in recent days, but there is one area of his record consistently derided – his ability to pick a goalkeeper. Is his record as bad as is made out? Here’s the story of the goalkeepers of Ferguson’s quarter of a century at Old Trafford.

Gary Bailey was United’s incumbent first choice when Ferguson arrived in town. The English-born, South African raised Bailey infamously paid for his own ticket to fly to Manchester for his trial with the club and with the arrival of the Scot, it wasn’t long before he needed to arrange more transport, this time out of the club. Ferguson’s first major goalkeeping signing came not long after with the purchase of Jim Leighton. Fergie had worked with him during the former’s stunningly successful stint in charge of the Dons. The Scottish goalie was much admired with Brian Clough – in that familiar style of combining a genuine compliment with a mild insult towards someone or something – observing “Jim Leighton is a rare bird – a Scottish goalkeeper that can be relied on.” For much of his time at Old Trafford, that assessment proved to be correct, but a loss of form culminating with being dropped for the replay of the 1990 FA Cup Final in favour of Les Sealey, signalled a bleak future at the club. Leighton wasn’t quite a liability, but if the club wanted to surge out of mid-table obscurity, the club were going to need a more reliable option between the sticks.

That option came in the form of Peter Schmeichel who Ferguson brought to the club after the Dane’s eye-catching performances for Brondby in the UEFA Cup of 1991. The decade of high finance and hyper-inflation that griped football during the 90s makes it easy to blithely accept Fergie’s retrospective assessment that Schmeichel was the “bargain of the century”, but back in the early nineties, £530,000 wasn’t exactly the risk-free, ‘shot to nothing’ purchase modern football pricing would have you believe. It turned out to be an inspired decision however, with the Great Dane going on to become a United legend with his combination of agility, leadership and controlled aggression raising the bar for what was expected of a Premier League goalkeeper. The outfield talent may have been the catalyst for United’s early dominance of the Premier League, but Schmeichel was the crucial foundation upon which the team was built. Such was his consistency during his eight seasons at the club, back-up keepers like Kevin Pilkington and Nick Culkin rarely got a look in. The one exception was the very under-rated Raimond van der Gouw did step in for the Dane on a few crucial occasions when Schmeichel was unavailable.

His quest to replace Schmeichel remains one of the more noticeable blots on Fergie’s copybook. No goalkeeper could truly have replaced a goalkeeper of such immense stature and influence, but Ferguson’s choices went badly awry. Massimo Taibi has become a byword for a costly and comical foreign import and his reign didn’t go much beyond a calamitous display against Southampton. Fergie deemed Mark Bosnich surplus to requirements in his early years at Old Trafford, but after his successful spell with Aston Villa, the older and more experienced Bosnich had an obvious attraction to Ferguson. Behind the scenes however, the Australian was struggling with his own demons and his return to the club never got going.

Bosnich remained at the club, but it was apparent he wasn’t going to be the solution to the problem and with that in mind, Fergie splashed the cash to bring World Cup winner, Fabien Barthez to the club. £7.8 million was handed over for his services and the size-able fee meant the pressure was on from the start. His spell was littered with mistakes and isn’t remembered with huge fondness, but Barthez was a quality goalkeeper and the problems he faced summed up the immense demand for consistent excellence that comes with being Manchester United’s first choice. With a league campaign, more than likely a couple of cup runs and almost always at least ten or so European games every season, the volume of matches any goalkeeper at Old Trafford is going to face means he’ll always be in the spotlight and the capacity for flaws to be exposed becomes greater. Barthez was generally good, but his dips in concentration were too frequent for the standards required. He could have been a roaring success at 98% of the other professional clubs in the world, but for Ferguson, he would never make the grade.

Perhaps stung by the failure of going for the big fish, Fergie then went for the comparatively unknown Roy Carroll with contributions from van der Gouw followed by the signing of Tim Howard. Initially the Northern Irishman provided cover for Barthez, but he got his chance as first choice when the Frenchman returned to Marseille. Sadly, his spell at Old Trafford will be mainly remembered for his comical attempt to save Pedro Mendes’ garryowen. As amusing as it was, it was somehow worked on the match officials, so at least he contributed to the cause. Howard is often regarded as flop. He wasn’t a success, but time has showed that it wasn’t the most misguided of decisions. Howard has gone on to become a Premier League stalwart with Everton and although it didn’t work out for him with United, the scouting system clearly correctly identified the player’s talent. It was certainly the wrong place at the wrong time for Howard, although I suspect even at his best, he would still be too error-prone for Sir Alex. Ricardo and Andy Goram also came through the revolving door for goalkeepers around this time, but again, were never likely to be the silver bullet Fergie craved in a custodian. Rather than being a rod to bash him with, it speaks volumes for Ferguson’s managerial acumen that he had assembled a team capable of winning trophies despite the handicap of under-performing keepers.

The second major goalkeeping success of the Ferguson era was to come in 2005 when he finally landed Edwin van der Sar. The Dutchman’s move to Fulham had the air of a great name cashing in before retirement, but he consistently impressed at Craven Cottage and despite his age, Sir Alex took him to Old Trafford a few months before van der Sar’s 35th birthday. What followed was one of the most remarkable Indian summer’s in the history of professional football. Van der Sar lacked Schmeichel’s revolutionary impact, but what he did bring was astonishing consistency and reliability. He commanded his penalty area with authority and excelled in doing the basics right. It wasn’t always spectacular, but it’s what was needed at the time and without van der Sar, some of United’s more recent successes could easily be more scarce. Ben Foster was brought in as a potential successor to van der Sar, but not dissimilar to Barthez – he’s talented, but a little too error prone for the United job.

In conclusion, I suspect that Ferguson’s perceived lack of talent in spotting goalkeepers is largely down to his length of time in the job. Of course not every one of his goalkeeping decisions has been a hit, but the sheer volume he has had to bring in during his time make the ratio look skewed in favour of misses rather than hits. If any other manager was at a top club for the same length of time, they would no doubt have a similarly patchy record. Plus one extenuating circumstance is the type of club he has made Manchester United. His success has meant the demand for complete excellence at the club is a constant and the goalkeepers who could achieve those standards have been exceedingly few of the course of the 25 years. Maybe he should have broke the bank for Buffon, Casillas or – by his own admission – gone for Edwin van der Sar sooner, but there simply haven’t been enough top quality goalkeepers around who could be expected to meet the immense demands that come with the clubs’ no. 1 role. Most of the time, they haven’t been available for any amount of money, so Fergie has had to go for riskier, less surefire options and that hasn’t always ended well.

Despite the fairly knee-jerk reactions of certain pundits and journalists, it’s too early to pass judgement on Fergie’s most recent dip into the goalkeeper market. David de Gea hasn’t had an ideal start to his time at United, but there are signs of improvement and he’s far from a write off. Anders Lindegaard is getting his chances too and he could yet be another Dane to have a big impact between the posts at Old Trafford. De Gea is the main hope however and much like Ferguson in his early days at Old Trafford, sticking with him through a rocky patch could be a decision to reap massive rewards.

Premier League 2011/12 GK Preview: West Brom

West Brom

Ben Foster

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.

The Spurs Goalkeeper Hunt Begins

With Gomes having dropped his team in it once too often, it would be a big surprise not to see him leave White Hart Lane over the summer. Here’s a look at some of the candidates in the frame to replace him.

Ben Foster - Tottenham Goalkeeper?
Ben Foster
‘Your career in Hollywood is over’ is what comes to mind when summarising Foster’s career at Old Trafford. Having been hyped through the roof for his performances on loan at Watford, when it came to the big stage, Foster seemed to have too much on his plate and his seemed to blow his audition. At any stage in a player’s career the United job is one that comes with pressure, expectation and unimaginable levels of scrutiny. Having been shown the door at Old Trafford, you would have doubted if Foster would ever be considered for one of the league’s bigger teams, but the rehabilitation of his reputation at Birmingham has gone so well that he must feature on the wish-list for sides aspiring for league titles and Champions League places. With England duty off the agenda for the time being he’s an even more attractive prospect and if he continues to improve his consistency, could solve Spurs’ goalkeeping problems for the guts of the next decade.

Shay Given - Spurs Goalkeeper?
Shay Given
With Harry’s reputation for finding a bargain, it’s virtually impossible to imagine that Given is not on his radar. After finding out that the two way ‘competition’ for the goalkeeping duties at Man City was in fact a closed shop in favour of Joe Hart, the Irishman must surely be desperate to leave. Considering his age and increasing proneness to injury, it’s a slight risk, but the outlay for Tottenham should be minimal and it’s a move that could pay off handsomely. Prior to being unfairly being assigned to bench-warming duties at City, Given was playing very well. With the exception of international football and the odd Europa League outing, this season has been one of inactivity for Given and it remains to be seen if he can recapture his form. There’s no reason to think he won’t, but age catches up with all of us and the last 12 months my have aged him more than we’ve anticipated. He’s still a risk worth taking and Harry’s no stranger to taking a gamble.

Scott Loach - Tottenham Goalkeeper?
Scott Loach
The national side’s struggles to find a reliable goalkeeper has thrust Loach into the conscious of the typical football fan earlier than if probably fair on him. There’s no doubting his natural ability, but at the age of 22, asking him to step up to one of the Premier League’s most high pressure jobs will test his temperament almost more than his talent. He still needs room to make mistakes and build up experience. Having made around 150 first team appearances, that attitude may come across as overly cautious, but I’ve lost count of the number of young English goalkeepers who are exposed to the glare of a particularly savage sports media prematurely and never fully regain their confidence. Playing game is one way of gaining experience, but playing under the weight of expectation and pressure is still something he hasn’t been exposed to too often. Counting against a move is the unwritten rule of the ‘premium’ attached to signing young English players. As much as he rails against his wheeler dealer reputation, Harry has a fondness for pulling one out of the bag and the money Redknapp will be asked to pay for Loach may a little too close to his real market value for Harry’s liking. At some stage, Loach will get his chance to step up into the top rung of goalkeepers, but this summer may be too soon to be making that move.

Diego Lopez
Diego Lopez
Replacing Gomes with Lopez would be a bold move. Lopez is good enough to start for the vast majority of top international sides, but such is the depth of talent within the Spanish goalkeeping ranks, he’s roughly 4th or 5th choice. It’s more than lazy journalism to make the comparison between Gomes and Lopez. Both are tall, bulky men blessed with seemingly physically impossible agility. They’re capable of getting across the goal in an instant, but there is a lingering doubt about his handling. To be fair to Lopez, his handling may be perfectly fine, but he doesn’t tend to use it a lot and when I have seen it in action, it’s been on the jittery side of assured. When given the chance, he’ll parry or punch and although that’s not necessarily a problem, it doesn’t tend to go down well with certain fans and ill-informed pundits in the media. Sadly they go a long way to dictating public opinion and on the back of Gomes, Spurs will need someone who’s more obviously convincing. It’s as unfair as it is geographically inaccurate, but also counting against him will be the fact he’ll get lumped into the same ‘continental’ category that’s associated with Gomes. He doesn’t suffer from the same frequency of ‘rush of blood to the head’ moments that afflicts Gomes, but it has happened on occasion. He won’t come cheap and Harry may decide to give him a skip.

Paul Robinson
Paul Robinson
A quick look at their squad list tells you Tottenham have few problems with welcoming back former players. ‘Once you leave, you always go back’ seems to be the mantra amongst those departing the club. The Robinson that Spurs would be getting now is a much improved version of the one they let go in 2008. The stats from his time at White Hart Lane don’t make pretty reading, but in his defence he was playing behind a defence with an almost comic disdain for defending set pieces. Since retiring from international duty at the start of the season, Robinson has concentrated on his club duties with tremendous results. He always had natural agility in his locker, but made mistakes due to a lack of focus. For whatever reason (I’d suggest an absence of fatigue), turning his back on England duty has improved his reliability. The frequency of mistakes has decreased and his handling is tidier than ever. Plus, he looks like he’s enjoying himself. From Tottenham’s purely selfish point of view, a Blackburn relegation and an Ewood Park firesale wouldn’t his hurt availability.

The Best Premier League Goalkeepers 2010-11

MOG Premier League Awards
It’s awards season and in the absence of any goalkeepers actually making the PFA Player of the Year or Young Player of the Year shortlists, here’s a look at the best performing goalkeepers of the season. It’s not exactly a list of the most talented goalkeepers, but rather the ones who have consistently performed to the best of their abilities. I haven’t ranked them, but here’s my shortlist.

Van der Sar
Even with retirement approaching, Van der Sar remains one of the league’s best

Ali Al-Habsi
Not even his mum could call Al-Habsi the complete goalkeeper, but he has been extremely effective for Wigan this season. At his best he is an excellent shot-stopper capable of hurling his sizeable frame across the goal with stunning agility and were it not for some vital saves, his team would be further adrift at the bottom of the table rather than one win away from safety. He has been one of the best performers in Roberto Martinez’s squad and was vital in taking a crucial six points from Wolves in two games this season and holding Liverpool to two draws. His handling is suspect, he regularly makes mistakes and his technique isn’t pretty, but he gets the job done and right now that’s all that matters to Wigan. Regardless of Wigan’s fate come the final day of the season, the Omani has almost certainly done enough to ensure he’ll be a fixture in the Premier League for some years to come.

Paul Robinson
Unhappy with being overlooked for England, this season saw the Blackburn goalkeeper make himself unavailable for international duty and his club have reaped the benefits. Like a spurned lover trying to show an ex what they’re missing out on, the perceived insult from Capello has been the driving force behind arguably the best season of his career. This term, Robinson has shown the focus that has often been lacking in his career. He has always been capable, but inconsistent. The disconnect between his natural ability and his concentration meant his career hit something of a glass ceiling when it came to progressing to one of the Premier League’s top teams, but this seen his sense of injustice has been a motivating factor is some excellent displays. If a player needs to have a chip on his shoulder to bring out his very best form, it does raise wider questions about the earlier part of his career, but we’ll blissfully ignore that because this season Robinson has been a joy to watch.

Edwin van der Sar
It may initially seem like a choice motivated entirely by sentiment, but in his final season as a player van der Sar has been the difference between Man Utd being champions elect and scrambling around for a Champions League spot. This is by no means a vintage Man Utd team, but van der Sar’s contributions at vital times have been crucial in smoothing the path to three points. His big saves have earned United points that their actual performances didn’t merit and although he hasn’t been perfect (such as against West Brom at Old Trafford) his attitude is always exceptional and he has brought a big net gain to United overall. He doesn’t let errors get to him and blips remain blips rather than diffusing into a prolonged slump in form. Despite his advanced years, van der Sar is still one of the world’s best. It’s been said many times before, but that doesn’t make it any less true – the Dutchman is leaving some huge boots to fill.

Honourable mentions
Ben Foster who has made some remarkable saves this season, culminating in a superb sowing in the Carling Cup Final. Pepe Reina – without him Liverpool could genuinely be in a relegation dogfight. Petr Cech – who started the season brilliantly to mask Chelsea’s shortcomings before the finger in the dyke become insufficient to plug the leaky defence in front of him. Robert Green – still someway short of the league’s finest, but he has shown character and resilience to bounce back from the low of World Cup 2010. Tim Howard has made some amazing saves for Everton, but he throws in too many clangers to truly be considered amongst the very best in the league this season.

The Carling Cup Final From A GK Point Of View

Szczesny & Foster
One v One – Szczesny v Foster
Wojciech Szczesny must feel like he has the world at his feet. A week and a half after resisting wave after wave of Barcelona attack to put his team in a great position to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, he will line out at Wembley with a chance of claiming the first bit of silverware in a senior Arsenal career that is precisely 15 games old. The young Pole has risen rapidly to the top of the Gunners’ goalkeeping pecking order, but such have been the maturity and confidence of his performances, he doesn’t strike you as a man struggling to keep his head above water. His all round game is strong – his agility good, his hands reliable and he’s quick to spot danger. He’s not yet perfect however. His distribution needs work and if I’m being picky, some mouthy comments on Twitter and vocal incidents on the pitch hint at a temperament that’s someway short of ice cool. The arrival of Jens Lehmann as a short-term addition to the Arsenal coaching staff isn’t likely to smooth out this aspect of his game, but goalkeeping coach, Gerry Peyton would be well advised to work on keeping his attitude in check.

When Szczesny looks down the pitch on in the Carling Cup final – aside from the likelihood of seeing Lee Bowyer maim someone – he’ll see a cautionary tale. The very use of that phrase has connotations with tragedy and despair, which is not the case, but at the age of 27, Ben Foster’s career hasn’t yet continued on the stellar trajectory the early hype suggested it might. In the lifespan of a goalkeeper, he’s young enough to change that, but the development needs to come soon. It’s difficult to criticise Foster for the hype generated by his rise. Whilst an agent may have used it as leverage in various transfer and contract negotiations, he wasn’t taking full-page ads in newspapers telling the world how amazing he thinks he is.

Being English and an employee of Manchester United is enough to get the hype machine whirring busily. At a young age, when there’s not a whole lot of first team experience to go on, it can create an ’emperors new clothes’ effect where the obvious shortcomings are overlooked simply because of (a) the overwhelming desire for a good English goalkeeper and (b) a club like Manchester United have seen enough talent to deem him worth recruiting. Foster had a couple of good seasons with Watford, but playing in a side in which survival was the objective, he was always likely to be given more leeway than at a club were two high pressure games a week are the norm and winning is taken as a right. At Manchester United, where every match is essentially huge and any dropped points are a reason for full-scale post-mortem, the stakes are much higher and the tolerance for errors much lower. Following some good early promise, too much was expected of him too young and he was immediately onto a hiding to nothing where disappointment was almost guaranteed.

He’s still a very, very good goalkeeper, but as yet, he hasn’t done enough to be considered one of the very best in England. Let alone Europe or the world. He lacks the explosive spring and agility of genuinely top class keepers and his hands let him down a little too often. His reactions are very good and often are enough to compensate for suspect technique. This isn’t about bashing Foster. It’s about warning about the pressures facing a young goalkeeper and how difficult it can be to meet the expectation heaped on you based on a handful of games. Other people were writing cheques he couldn’t cash and he is now – rather harshly and through little fault of his own – finds himself in the category of the under-fulfilled potential. It’s very much the ‘build ’em up to knock ’em’ down philosophy so prevalent in certain quarters of the media.

Szczensy is flavour of the month at the moment, but the race is long and things don’t always go to plan. The fulsome praise he’s now receiving could easily turn to stinging criticism. How he handles it will be a key factor in determining the success of his career.