A RE­LI­ABLE ‘GREAT WALL’

Saints keeper Forster ends Mil­ner’s sev­e­nand-a-half year spot-kick record

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LON­DON about his pre­vi­ous en­coun­ters with Mil­ner: “We were both at New­cas­tle when we were younger. And ob­vi­ously at Eng­land (we have been in squads to­gether).

“That was the first com­pet­i­tive penalty that I’ve faced against him. On the train­ing pitch we’ve faced each other quite a bit.”

It was a rare oc­ca­sion when a penalty taker de­served no blame for a save. Hit low and hard to Forster’s right, few would have backed this to be the mo­ment that Mil­ner’s seven-and-a-half year run with­out miss­ing a spot­kick ended.

It was, Forster su­perbly reach­ing the ball with one of those shovel-like hands and turn­ing it around the post.

“I think that could well be the first penalty I’ve saved from him to be hon­est, even in train­ing,” he re­vealed.

While much has been made of the mind games be­fore the penalty, with the goal­keeper speak­ing to Mil­ner and scuff­ing the spot, Forster does not be­lieve it had much of an im­pact.

“I think a lot of clubs now try and de­lay the tak­ing of a penalty,” he con­tin­ued. “It just puts a lit­tle bit more pres­sure on and gives the taker a bit more time to think about it. With the player he is, I don’t think it would have af­fected him too much.”

Sun­day was an­other marker of a strange sea­son for Southamp­ton. An in­tro­duc­tion to Euro­pean foot­ball ended ear­lier, in Forster’s view, than it should have. They were mo­ments from glory in the League Cup fi­nal against Manch­ester United and prob­a­bly de­served to win it.

This feels like a slight blip in the con­sis­tent im­prove­ment at St. Mary’s dur­ing their stun­ning rise from League One. One day there is an ex­pec­ta­tion both here and in Forster’s mind that Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball will come.

Even be­fore then, Southamp­ton could still have a big say in how the Pre­mier League’s top clubs fin­ish. Arse­nal, cur­rently sixth, are the vis­i­tors to­day, while fifth-placed Manch­ester United come to town on May 17.

The 29-year-old is look­ing forward to the chal­lenge: “Ev­ery­one wants to play the big teams. When you’re a kid you al­ways dream of play­ing in games like that. You get to test your­self against the best play­ers in the world.

“We’ve got a run of play­ing the big teams, that’s just how it’s worked out, and it’s fan­tas­tic to play them.”

And Forster, prob­a­bly one of the Pre­mier League’s top goal­keep­ers, wants it for him­self more reg­u­larly. “Look­ing back, I got to play Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball at Celtic. To play in com­pe­ti­tions like that is some­thing a bit spe­cial.

“That’s def­i­nitely what ev­ery player strives for, to play in those games week in and week out, to play Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball. That’s the am­bi­tion that not only I but ev­ery player in foot­ball has.”

The Hex­ham-born stop­per is def­i­nitely one of the top goal­keep­ers in the English class, yet he has failed to make an ap­pear­ance at ei­ther of the tour­na­ments he has been called up for.

The pres­ence of Joe Hart, some­one he is close to, has stopped him from achiev­ing more for the Three Lions.

The six-cap star ad­mits that he is aim­ing to be first choice by the time Rus­sia 2018 rolls around.

“That’s what you want to do when you grow up. You want to go to World Cups and play. If I did that it would be a very spe­cial mo­ment for me.

“I’d love to be Eng­land’s No 1, I’m not go­ing to deny that. Joe’s quite rightly the No 1.

“I just have to keep work­ing here and try and play as well as I can here. If I can, it puts pres­sure on him.” Daily Mail

REUTERS PIC

Fraser Forster is eye­ing Eng­land’s No 1 spot.

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