Playing for your country was meant to be the pinnacle of a footballer’s career, but increasingly players turn their back on the national team. Sometimes it is to extend their playing career, sometimes because the travel is too arduous and they miss their family, and sometimes because they fall out with the management. Ben Foster has recently announced he has made himself eligible for the England team, but should he come straight back in after his self-imposed exile?
Foster told reporters: "It was very, very serious with Fabio Capello.
"From talking to a few of the lads, since Roy took over he's so much more relaxed. Under Fabio it seemed to be a little bit too negative.
“I was playing with a lot of niggles and my kids were born around that time as well, so they were about one and two - it was hard for me to go away for a week or 10 days and not see my kids or family.
"It was too much of a big miss."
Anyone who doesn’t have a heart of stone can sympathise with the Baggies stopper. It is only natural that a father would miss his young family when travelling away for work, and if he had injuries that needed resting one would expect the England side would have understood the situation. This situation is exacerbated by the nature of being a number 2 goalkeeper – you are not going to get many opportunities to play, no matter how well you impress in training, so most of the time you are sat on the bench twiddling your thumbs.
This situation is not unique to goalkeepers, however. Both Jamie Carragher and Michael Carrick pointed at the lack of playing time compared to the disruption international breaks cause as reasons why they removed themselves from consideration. Roy Hodgson, the current incumbent, has publicly said that the reason why he does not pick Rio Ferdinand is because he thinks the Manchester United defender is too good to travel as a reserve. Fair enough, and if this management policy is extended it should help not only senior players who are on the fringes of England squads but also younger players who will benefit from exposure to the international set up.
But there is an implied arrogance about any player who will only make themselves available for their nation if they are guaranteed to play. Carrick returned after Euro 2012 but with the return from injury of Jack Wilshere the ex-West Ham and Tottenham playmaker has found himself on the subs bench again. It must be frustrating but ruling yourself out of contention completely is an extreme reaction.
For the last decade or so there has been a lack of depth in England’s goalkeeping department. Joe Hart has now firmly established himself in the number one jersey, while Jack Butland looks a greatpropsect for the future. Fraser Forster has impressed in Celtic’s Champions League run, while John Ruddy has fought his way into the England reckoning at Norwich. Rob Green still has time to get himself back in the picture if he can get regular games at Queens Park Rangers, so the well is not as dry as when Foster first turned his back on the England team.
Foster and Hodgson have worked together previously at WBA, and this will have played a part in the keeper changing his mind. However, Hodgson should be cautious about automatically calling up his former charge – not only does it set a bad precedent, it also damages the confidence of the other keepers save Hart, and might not be best for Foster himself if he finds himself flying out across the world only to sit on the bench every game.
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