England's Number One? Fraser Forster's Celtic Form Could Force Southgate's Hand

The on-loan keeper was Celtic's star in the Betfred Cup final win
13:00, 15 Dec 2019

It will be remembered for all time as The Fraser Forster Final. Indeed, there is no doubting who defined last Sunday’s Betfred Cup showdown between Celtic and Rangers, with the Hoops goalkeeper single-handedly ensuring his team got both hands on the first piece of silverware of the 2019/20 Scottish football season. Rangers would have had a better shot of scoring past an electricity pylon.

There was a stunning diving save to deny Ryan Jack from distance, a stop from close range to thwart Alfredo Morelos, another punch clear to prevent the Colombian from scoring a header, another save from a one-on-one situation, and that’s without mentioning his penalty save to deny Morelos from 12 yards out.

Forster has lost his way in recent years, falling down the pecking order at Southampton before leaving St Mary’s Stadium on loan in the summer, but this was a reminder of the 31-year-old’s ability. There’s a reason he was considered England’s best goalkeeper for a spell, and for Celtic he is nearing that sort of level again.

One wonders if Gareth Southgate watched Sunday’s match at Hampden Park. The England manager has a number of goalkeeping options, with next summer’s European Championships looming on the horizon, but none have become indispensable as the Three Lions’ number one. Forster should at least be in the conversation.

Jordan Pickford is still considered England’s best goalkeeper, but his form has been less than convincing so far this season. Nick Pope was seen as a contender, but has allowed blunders to creep into his game of late. Dean Henderson and Tom Heaton have also made mistakes this season. 

Sunday’s wasn’t a totally isolated case. On form, Forster is arguably England’s best goalkeeper once again. He has found his confidence again since returning to Celtic, with Neil Lennon keen to keep Forster beyond his current loan deal. “He's one of the best goalkeepers around,” Lennon said after the Betfred Cup final triumph. 

“But he's not our player and then there's affordability. We need to sit down with him and see what he wants to do. His performance came as no surprise to me because I've seen him do it many times before. You can see how happy he is to be here and I think he's gone on record saying he loves it here so we'll see.”

Some may argue that it’s difficult to judge Forster’s international credentials while he plays in Scotland. But goalkeeper is the one position where there is more of a level playing field upon which to draw comparisons. After all, a shot is a shot, a cross is a cross, no matter the league it is made in. Southgate should at least be thinking about Forster.

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