Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Carling tonic leaves Foster primed

Reality will hit home for Ben Foster on Wednesday when Manchester United travel to take on Newcastle at St James' Park in the Premier League.

The Old Trafford understudy took his big chance against Tottenham in the Carling Cup final at Wembley last Sunday and grabbed it with both hands in the absence of Edwin van der Sar.

The 25-year-old was making only his seventh senior appearance for the world club champions and managed to steal the headlines by keeping out Jamie O'Hara's spot-kick to secure the Premier League leaders their second major piece of silverware this season.

However, Foster will return to bench warming duties when Sir Alex Ferguson's side look to restore their seven-point advantage over nearest challengers Chelsea and Liverpool.

Even the notoriously unsentimental Scot admitted the decision to leave out Foster was harsh.

He said: "It is not easy and after watching Ben's performance on Sunday, it would seem a bit unfair."

Ferguson has a case-hardened history when it comes to unceremoniously dumping goalkeepers, so his later assertion that Foster's best years are ahead of him should not be ignored.

Dutch veteran van der Sar has only just signed a new one-year contract, so Foster may also have to prove he has the patience to cope with waiting for his opportunity to finally oust the 38-year-old.

Ironically, Foster may feel his best chance of firing a reminder to Ferguson will come with England.

England coach Fabio Capello witnessed first hand Foster's heroics against Tottenham, although David James has kept goal in England's opening four 2010 World Cup qualifiers - conceding just three goals - and appears to have made the position safe.

However, the Portsmouth number one will be approaching 40 when England hopefully board the plane for South Africa and is still prone to the odd rush of blood.

Foster could yet jump the queue and emerge as his natural successor, but he may just have to bide his time.

Nick Walsh writes features and betting previews for Betfair.

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