Keeper’s on-pitch research clinches trophy

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The Independent Football

Ben Foster revealed yesterday that he had used an iPod to second-guess the spot-kicks taken by Tottenham Hotspur in the penalty shoot-out to decide the Carling Cup Final. The Manchester United goalkeeper said the device had been brought on to the pitch by coach Eric Steele after the end of extra-time for him to look at.



''I did a bit of research for the penalties,'' Foster said. ''We tried to find out everything we could about Spurs. Just before the shoot-out I was looking at an iPod with Eric Steele, our goalkeeping coach, and on it were Tottenham's penalties including one from (Jamie) O'Hara. They just told me to stand up, be strong and it will probably go that way. It is great it worked out for me. It is a new innovation that Eric Steele brought when he arrived last summer.''

In the event Foster dived to his left to push away O'Hara's penalty and vindicate the methods used by Steele who was poached as United's goalkeeping coach soon after the former Tranmere Rovers player joined Blackburn Rovers – from Manchester City – last summer.

As a revelation, the use of the device is a marketing man's dream and yet another innovation for the iPod generation. It also guaranteed Foster's status as United's hero.

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson went further to declare that the 25-year-old is the ''future'' for both United and for his country. ''I think he'll be England's goalkeeper for a number of years,'' he said. It's a faith that is shared by England manager Fabio Capello – who was at Wembley yesterday – and who marked out Foster, ahead of Joe Hart, as the one most likely to be David James's successor.

There's just one problem – he doesn't play enough. Capello found this out to his cost last season in travelling to Old Trafford for a midweek game, after Foster had made his first appearance of the season the previous weekend, only to find the man signed from Stoke City for £1m in the summer of 2005, had been dropped. Tomasz Kuszczak played instead and, in theory, the Pole still remains ahead of Foster in the pecking order but has remained unconvincing.

Edwin van der Sar is first-choice, and has signed a contract extension, and while Foster has 18 months left on his present deal he is expected to soon push on.

Harry Redknapp rates Foster also and inquired about the keeper in the January transfer window before finally signing Carlo Cudicini after being given no encouragement from Ferguson.

It was clear why. Saves from Aaron Lennon's powerful drive, Darren Bent's low shot – for which he was partly unsighted – and then the penalty save that set the tone for the shoot-out.

This was just his sixth appearance of the season in a career that has, twice, been threatened by knee cruciate injuries. His temperament, and strength of mind, are clear – as well as his lack of luck. Maybe that has finally changed. ''He is a strong character, a very strong character,'' Ferguson said. Temperament is a quality that Ferguson highlighted yesterday in also including 18-year-old Danny Wellbeck and Darron Gibson, still just 21, and although the manager hailed the performance of both, the evidence was patchy. Wellbeck, despite his pace, struggled and fluffed the few chances that fell his way while Gibson, after a bright start, faded.

Both were withdrawn – Wellbeck before the hour mark and Gibson at the end of normal time – leaving Foster to go the distance and, with his iPod, hit the right note as United yet again prevailed in a penalty shoot-out to win another trophy.

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