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Time is right for Foster as United keeper is tipped to become England's No 1

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25 Mar 2009 12:14:43

Time is right for Foster as United keeper is tipped to become England's No 1

Ben Foster used to live less than two miles from Watford's training ground and yet would turn up with seconds to spare. Other squad members would arrive early to begin their conditioning, while the club's newly-acquired Manchester United loanee breezed in, rarely late, but always with no margin for error. It was an indolent approach at odds with the consummately organised style of fellow goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain and yet the pair formed a somewhat unlikely alliance in Foster's two-year spell at Vicarage Road. 'Ben arrived in 2005 as a rough diamond,' said Chamberlain, now a goalkeeping coach with the Hornets. 'He was sloppy in his professionalism and needed plenty of game time but the talent was there for all to see. Close to the mark: Foster would turn up to training at Watford with just seconds to spare 'While the pros were always in early as a matter of course, Ben just came in and started straight away. 'You could never fault his attitude, it was just that he didn't quite understand the commitment that is required. We made a few pointers here and there and that helped him no end.  National service leaves Premier League bosses with a nervy wait and deserted training pitchesREVEALED: The real reason why raging Redknapp has gone to war with Capello's England over Spurs crock KingRefs see red in Friedel U-turn as Villa keeper is cleared to play against UnitedStevie to sign for good: All Gerrard has to do now is hit top form for EnglandMANCHESTER UNITED FC NEWS FROM ACROSS THE NET 'He had to smarten up his act but few people could deny his contribution here was nothing short of excellent. 'Ben and his girlfriend would visit me and my wife and he became a big brother to my two children. Sometimes they would stay with us for the weekend and I know what a level-headed guy he is and how much he developed in his time at the club.' England's No 1s: David James, Robert Green and Ben Foster training with England From fairly modest beginnings at Stoke, the Warwickshire-born stopper endured a host of indifferent loan spells before becoming a revelation at Watford in gaining promotion via the drama of a 3-0 play-off final victory over Leeds. Then manager Aidy Boothroyd was sufficiently moved to declare 'Ben is going to be the best keeper in the world.' A heroic, if ultimately futile, attempt to keep the Hornets in the Premier League followed and after overcoming a serious knee ligament injury, Foster could crown a remarkable recovery by earning only his second England cap at Wembley in Saturday's friendly against Slovakia. 'I am delighted for him because for a goalkeeper with his ability, the England squad is where he belongs,' said Chamberlain. 'He is 6ft 2in tall, very agile and has tremendous quickness of feet for a goalkeeper. He is a laid-back lad with an excellent temperament that has served him well both in dealing with injuries and in handling the pressure of playing for Manchester United.' Cup success: Foster's performance for United in the Carling Cup has helped earn him his England chance Foster returned to United in 2007, where Eric Steele picked up the baton this season from Chamberlain via Tony Coton, who retired from the Old Trafford backroom staff last summer. He appeared somewhat bemused upon learning of Foster's previous indiscipline. 'Ben certainly isn't late for training at United,' said the European champions' goalkeeping coach. 'Now he is in the gym three days a week at 9.15am doing his preparatory work, just like Edwin Van Der Sar.'He is a diligent professional but still a baby in many ways. It must be remembered that Ben has played less than 100 Premier League games and has a lot to do to continue the dynasty of Manchester United goalkeepers. He has a six-month old baby of his own now and his life situation has changed too. 'There is a friendly but competitive relationship between Ed and Ben. Ed will pass on certain pieces of advice but his record has thrown down the gauntlet to Ben, who realises the heritage at United.' Helping hand: Edwin van der Sar is helping Foster at Manchester United The moment that undoubtedly brought Foster to England coach Fabio Capello's attention came at Wembley in last month's Carling Cup Final win over Tottenham. The 25-year-old made several superb saves during the game and denied Jamie O'Hara from the penalty spot as United secured victory. 'That final was a proud moment for me,' said Steele. 'I have only worked with him for seven months but when you cannot play the next best thing is to see those you coach perform well and that is what Ben did at Wembley. 'We have not seen the best of him yet. That will probably come when he is 28 but he has the ability to be England's No 1 for many years to come.' Back step: Peter Shilton thinks David James has gone backwards, which gives Foster a chance to cement his England place There are few better positioned to validate that statement than Peter Shilton, who is likely to witness David Beckham take a step closer to his all-time record of 125 international caps at Wembley. Foster's only previous England appearance came against Spain in February 2007 and Shilton said: 'He didn't have a lot to do that night. 'You do need someone who is going to be really consistent. David James seems this season to have taken a bit of a step back and next season, with the World Cup coming up, you would hope to see Ben challenging for the No 1 spot by playing regularly.' Tackling the awesome tasks of becoming United and England's No1 is a proposition far removed from his days at Vicarage Road but only serves as a measure of how far Foster has come. Chamberlain added: 'I still speak to him on a regular basis, although he now jokes that he is so important now he has no time to talk to us little folk.' Should Foster take any chance given to him this week, that importance to England will be less grounded in humour.  National service leaves Premier League bosses with a nervy wait and deserted training pitchesREVEALED: The real reason why raging Redknapp has gone to war with Capello's England over Spurs crock KingRefs see red in Friedel U-turn as Villa keeper is cleared to play against UnitedStevie to sign for good: All Gerrard has to do now is hit top form for EnglandMANCHESTER UNITED FC NEWS FROM ACROSS THE NET


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