I suspect that many Manchester United fans will have welcomed news that Ben Foster looks set to join Birmingham for a fee in the region of £4-6m.
On the face of it Sir Alex has offloaded a ‘keeper who has made only a dozen appearances for the club over five years, has been unceremoniously ditched from the national side by Fabio Capello and is probably best remembered for handing Chelsea the Community Shield last season with two dreadful howlers in front of goal.
Fergie will also no doubt have his business cap on when he cites the fact that he has at least quadrupled the original £1m investment he made when he brought the fledging young Foster to Old Trafford from Stoke back in 2005. Well I’m going to leap off the fence on this one when I say that it’s a good deal for Birmingham and that Alex McLeish has got himself a more than adequate replacement for the departing Joe Hart. United are under pressure to sell anything that moves from their debt-laden Yankee owners after all and I suspect that Fergie has simply lost patience with him.
Plucked from the wilderness after Stoke had farmed him out on loan to Wrexham, Foster was hailed at Old Trafford as a natural successor to Edwin van der Sar and England’s next no1 as the ink was still drying on his four year contract. It was always going to be a tall order stepping into the Dutch maestros capacious shoes though and an early loan spell with Watford, during which he helped the club win promotion from the Championship and then prevented a truly woeful Hornets side from losing more than half their games in the Premiership – keeping a dozen clean sheets along the way, showed the Red Devils just what he was capable of early on.
His return to Manchester was not a happy one, however, and his promising talent was hindered by successive injuries to his knee, which required extensive surgery, ankle, a broken finger and then finally his ribs. But, in what little they saw of him, the United faithful were treated to some match-winning performances from the much-maligned Foster including their sides’ 2009 League Cup Final victory over Tottenham in which he orchestrated a 4-1 win on penalties.
Again, I suspect the paltry number of international caps that he has acquired (4!) would have been somewhat bolstered were it not for his plague of injuries and the lack of a clear candidate for the role.
To my mind his potential and ability are clearly genuine but alas unfulfilled. At 27 he still has some years ahead of him and he may yet have another chance to shine.
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