Ben Foster can follow Roy Hodgson from Hawthorns to an England return

 

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The Independent Online

The new England manager, Roy Hodgson, is open to an international return for the goalkeeper Ben Foster after praising his performances under his command at West Bromwich Albion.

Hodgson signed Foster for West Bromwich on loan from Birmingham City last summer and the goalkeeper has played a major part in securing a third successive season of Premier League football at The Hawthorns. Foster opted not to make himself available for England 12 months ago, but Hodgson is not ruling out the 29-year-old.

"I'm not really in a position to talk about individual players or the selection of the squad at the moment," Hodgson said yesterday. "That's something I need to give consideration to. But Ben Foster will be one of the players under consideration.

"He's always been a good goalkeeper and since we've worked with him at West Brom, we've definitely seen a spiralling of his performances. It was a nervous beginning and he conceded one or two goals where he might have done better, but in the latter half of this season he's got stronger."

Hodgson will remain in charge for West Bromwich's final two games of the campaign, against Bolton and Arsenal. He hopes the club's supporters understand his decision to quit after 15 months for the England post.

"It's been a magnificent time at Albion," he said. "I've been made to feel so welcome by the fans and players. It's been a marvellous time. But the England national job is something quite different. I hope everyone understands that it was an opportunity I felt obliged to accept."

The former England manager Graham Taylor believes Hodgson can help England exceed expectations at Euro 2012. The long-running nature of the appointment process has left Hodgson with, in his own words, "40 days and 40 nights" to prepare his team for this summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine, and the Football Association has been criticised by some over the uncertainty created.

"Everybody has a ready-made excuse to blame the FA, in terms of how they've handled it and how they've delayed it," Taylor said. "I have this little feeling we might do well. There is that lack of expectancy, there are reasons why it might be difficult, and I just feel that when you have that... I'm not going to say we will win the competition, because that would be silly, but we will do better than a lot of people think. I'm not so worried about the shortness of time, the fact he's only got 40 days, because the squads will be selected and it's the players who will perform."

Former England captain Steven Gerrard and the Fulham chairman, Mohamed al-Fayed, are among those who have welcomed the appointment of Hodgson. Gerrard worked with Hodgson during the 64-year-old's ill-fated spell in charge of Liverpool and has been tipped as a possible captain for this summer.

While his fellow international midfielder Gareth Barry said "I don't really know too much about him," Gerrard said: "I've worked with Roy. He's a good man and a good manager. It's important he's given a chance and I'm looking forward to working with him again."

Hodgson dodged a question yesterday over whether Gerrard would take over as England captain from John Terry after the Chelsea man lost the armband earlier this season over allegations that he racially abused Anton Ferdinand of Queen's Park Rangers in a league match. Terry faces a court case in July when he will answer the charges, which he denies.

Hodgson spent two and a half years from December 2007 working under Fayed at Craven Cottage, during which time he guided Fulham to the Europa League final, in which they were beaten in extra time by Atletico Madrid.

Fayed said: "I send my warmest congratulations to Roy. I hope he does very well. He is the second manager I have given to England. Like the rest of the country, I and everyone at Fulham will be right behind Roy, the England team and the FA. We had some great times and he took us to our highest ever position in the top flight, seventh, and the final of the Europa League in 2010."

The Stoke City manager, Tony Pulis, believes Hodgson's vast experience will stand him in good stead in his new role. "He is a good coach and an experienced coach," Pulis said. "He has worked at international level and the top level in England. If he wins a load of games, then he will be carried round England."

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