Ben Foster determined to land United place in bid to make England World Cup squad
22 July 2009 05:46
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Ben Foster is crossing his fingers that his body will stand the strain of trying to become a Manchester United regular and earning a place at the World Cup.
Having a fumble: Ben Foster scrambles after dropping the ball against Malaysian player Mohd Amri Yahyah at the weekend
Foster has endured a catalogue of injuries since he was signed from Stoke four years ago.
After two seasons on loan at Watford, a cruciate ligament injury wrecked his first season at Old Trafford, a broken finger then cost him a place at last year's Club World Cup in Japan before a thumb injury ended his hopes of appearing on the bench for last term's Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.
The latter problem was particularly costly given Foster would almost certainly have won two more caps in the World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Andorra last month, adding to the couple he already has to his name.
Ahead of what is likely to be Edwin van der Sar's last year at United, Foster knows he needs to make a big impression, both on Sir Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello, who share the opinion that the 26-year-old is one of the best English goalkeepers around.
And, as he assesses his past record, the Leamington Spa-born stopper admits the first part of his task may be harder than the second.
Ben Foster on England duty with fellow glovemen Robert Green and David James
England battle: Foster on international duty with fellow glovemen Robert Green and David James
"If I want to go to the World Cup I need to be fit and I need to be playing for Manchester United," he said.
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"It is the first part of that I have always found pretty hard to do. Unfortunately the way my career has gone I have picked up injuries here and there.
"The last one was a blow because I missed some important games for club and country. But I needed to get my thumb repaired. Thankfully the operation went well and I have been fit all pre-season.
"I feel good in myself and as long as I can stay fit I hope the gaffer gives me a chance to show what I can do. I have just signed a new contract so now I have to start pushing on."
Given the position he finds himself in, Foster could have done without the blunder that gifted Malaysia their equalising goal in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
Under little pressure as he went to control a Darron Gibson back-pass at the Bukit Jalil Stadium, Foster allowed it to bounce off his shin, straight to a delighted Mohammed Amri Yahyah, who tapped into an empty net.
Foster could only attempt to hide his embarrassment. Not that it was possible once he returned to the United dressing room, where no mercy was shown.
Shoe of strength: But Ben Foster has struggled with injuries
"Coming on in a game is always a bit more difficult for goalkeepers than starting but that was particularly disappointing," said Foster, who had replaced Edwin van der Sar at the interval. "I got a bit of stick from the lads that's for sure.
"It was just one of those things. I wasn't paying enough attention and took my eye off the ball. I have to make sure that kind of thing doesn't happen again."
Although Foster did go on tour to South Africa three years ago before his second stint at Watford, this is his first experience of United fanaticism Asian-style.
It takes some getting used to as well. Fans are camped outside the team hotel 24 hours a day.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was once pounced on by an autograph hunter when he merely put his head out of his room door on a similar tour a few years back.
And United's arrival in Seoul was even more frenzied given Ji-sung Park has joined up with his team-mates after an extended summer break.
"It is absolutely mad," admitted Foster. "I missed the trip a couple of years ago but the lads came back and told me all about it.
"They camp outside the hotel, even when we go to training there are loads of people there. There are hundreds and the noise is unbelievable.
"We get mobbed at airports. It just shows you what a massive global brand Manchester United is.
"The other night we were playing the Malaysian national team in Malaysia yet the fans were cheering when we scored. You don't get that anywhere else."