FOLLOWING a shock defeat for Barcelona at Celtic in November 2012, people started to finally sit up and take notice of Fraser Forster – and Roy Hodgson was one of those.
When the Spanish press branded the former Newcastle goalkeeper as the ‘great wall’ after his shotstopping performance against Lionel Messi et al, it became impossible for him to be ignored.
Despite never playing in the Premier League, Forster fully deserves his World Cup call having proven himself to be a towering presence between the posts since heading to Norwich, initially, in the Championship on loan and then on to Celtic in 2010.
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With Manchester City’s Joe Hart and West Brom’s Ben Foster ahead of him, it would seem unlikely that Forster will even make an appearance on the pitch during the finals in Brazil.
His mere presence in Hodgson’s 23-man squad, though, highlights how far he has come in recent years.
There has been talk of a return to Newcastle, who sold him to Parkhead for £2m, as a long-term replacement for Tim Krul.
Celtic’s decision to reject a £5m offer from Benfica 12 months ago and apparent interest from Borussia Dortmund suggests he will not go cheap.
While question marks have often been raised over the test he faces in the Scottish Premier League after breaking a 43-year record for the number of league shut-outs in a season, his displays in the Champions League have earned the highest recognition Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian superstar goalkeeper, has thought Forster was ready for the England stage ever since he came up against him playing for Juventus last year.
Buffon, set to be at opposite ends to Hart when England open their World Cup campaign against Italy on Saturday in Group D, said: “Forster deserves it. You can talk about him not being in the top league but the amount of clean sheets he has kept has been incredible. He has proven over the last two years in Europe he can perform at the highest level.” A glowing tribute if ever there was one.
Forster is one of four towering sons of a Crown Court judge and the family were season ticket holders even though rugby was initially the sport of choice for back-row forward Forster when he attended Newcastle’s £3,500-a- term Royal Grammar School. But football took a real hold. Spells with local junior teams Stocksfield and Newburn ended with him joining the reputable Wallsend Boys Club and, shortly after, he was snapped up by Newcastle’s academy.
Now, armed with ten GCSEs and A-levels in economics and psychology, he has landed in Brazil with an England cap and high hopes for the future. “It was something special to get the call,” said Forster, preferred to Norwich’s John Ruddy for the final keeper spot in the squad after landing his third successive SPL title medal.
“You dream of it as a kid.
A World Cup in Brazil is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it’s fantastic. I think we all got a text just before the squad came out, to be fair. “You are sitting all morning just waiting for that text to come through.
You are pretty much staring at your phone all the time.
You don’t leave it anywhere.
“When it did come through, it was a very special moment. Then, obviously, there is the opportunity to tell all your friends and family. It is something you will remember forever.”