This article forms part of our Profit Players feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at how well a player has fared since being signed or sold, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to prove how good of a deal the club managed to achieve.
Birmingham may have been relegated in 2011 but Ben Foster, their Player of the Season from that campaign, stayed in the Premier League after he made the short hop to West Brom on loan that summer. If some Baggies fans had reservations about signing a player from a neighbouring club who had just been relegated, it would have been rather understandable.
The goalkeeper soon set about quelling any possible naysayers, though, keeping 10 clean sheets in the 2011/12 season for Albion and being named the supporters’ Player of the Year. His stellar performances helped West Brom to finish in the top half of the Premier League and convinced the club to make his loan move permanent in a £4m deal.
Foster played a further 30 league games in 2012/13 and did his bit to inspire the Baggies to an eighth-placed finish, which remains their best in the Premier League. Among his highlights that season was a penalty save from Steven Gerrard at Anfield to prevent Liverpool from opening the scoring on a night when West Brom won 2-0 – no doubt the ‘keeper relished that one as an ex-Manchester United player.
Despite missing almost half of the following season through injury, Foster earned a place in England’s 2014 World Cup squad, the first West Brom player to do so since Jeff Astle 44 years previously, and featured in one game at the finals in Brazil. He returned from the tournament to enjoy what was perhaps his best season at The Hawthorns – only 34 goals conceded in 30 games (1.13 per game) and 14 clean sheets (46.67% of games). Unfortunately, a cruciate ligament injury kept him out for the vast majority of 2015, but he returned to feature in 15 league games in the 2015/16 season and he was beaten just 17 times in that run.
Foster was ever-present for Albion in the 2016/17 Premier League and again won the supporters’ Player of the Season prize, in addition to being nominated for the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award – a fine achievement for a goalkeeper at a mid-table club. Despite the Baggies finishing bottom of the table the following season and suffering relegation, he still racked up double figures in terms of clean sheets.
Would you like to have Ben Foster back at West Brom?
Just as Birmingham’s relegation seven years previously prompted Foster to switch clubs, Albion’s top-flight demise in 2018 also saw him on the move to remain a Premier League player as he joined Watford for a cut-price £2.52m. It was an indication of how sturdy a presence he was between the sticks for West Brom that, in the first season after his departure, they conceded 62 league goals – more than in any of his seven campaigns at The Hawthorns, a telling statistic even considering the greater number of fixtures in the Championship.
Unsurprisingly, numerous Albion fans were sickened when he left the club two years ago and, as recently as this week, some of the Baggies faithful said they would take him back in preference to current number one Sam Johnstone.
Having cost the club just £4m but done so much to stretch their uninterrupted run in the Premier League to eight seasons, Foster can rightly be regarded as one of the best pieces of transfer business in West Brom’s recent history.
West Brom fans, just how good a player was Foster in his time at The Hawthorns? Comment below with your views!
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