Foster aims to challenge for England after return

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The Independent Football

The fit-again goalkeeper Ben Foster has revealed his short and long-term goals – to make a reserve team comeback with Manchester United and eventually challenge to be the England No 1.

Foster is close to returning to action with the side after being sidelined with cruciate knee ligament damage since his two-season loan with Watford. The 24-year-old is hoping to participate in a second-string game within the next fortnight after returning to training before pushing for a place in the senior side next season.

And ultimately Foster wants to challenge for the England jersey under new coach Fabio Capello and add to the one senior cap he collected against Spain in 2006.

Foster said: "Being the England No 1 is a driving force. Definitely, that is a huge incentive. But you have to take one thing at a time. Getting in the team here at United is not going to be an easy thing to achieve in the first place.

"But hopefully, if I can do that, an England chance might come along. But it's not something I'm thinking about much at the moment.

"David James has earned his place. He has been fantastic all season and deserves it. Some of the performances and some of the saves he has made this season have been out of this world.

"Of the other goalkeepers coming through, Joe Hart has done really well and Chris Kirkland and Scott Carson are there or thereabouts.

"I'm not really worried about anything like that at the moment. The main aim this season was to get back fit and force my way into the first team next season."

Foster is determined to return to action as soon as possible but is not holding out much hope of a first-team return prior to the end of the season.

"All is going well. I've probably got two weeks to go before I can play my first reserve team match," he said. "The reserve game with Liverpool [on Tuesday night] would have been ideal, but it was thought to be a week too early.

"They held me back from that but I've been out for eight months, so another two weeks isn't going to kill me. I've been in full training now for the last two months and I've just started back training with the first team, a bit of contact stuff, shooting and crossing and things like that. Generally all is going well. The knee feels good.

"I'm not looking to be involved in a first-team game this season. At the start of the season I knew the timescale of things and that it would take me pretty much to the end of the season before I could play games again.

"I've pretty much written this season off for myself. I'm just looking to next season really. My aim this season was to get back fit – we're nearly there now – and get in a few reserve team games before the end of the season. That would be ideal for me and then start again next season afresh."

Foster admitted: "The injury was a huge blow. Everything seemed to go well last season. I felt on top of my game and I felt that nothing really was going to stand in my way.

"Then the injury comes along and it is a massive blow and you're out for a whole season. You've just got to get your head down and work hard at things in the gym and out on the training pitch.

"Eight months is a long time and you lose parts of your game. You forget things, you really do. You lose your sharpness and general things like your handling and catching balls doesn't come back straight away.

"You need some games. Reserve team level isn't a great standard. You want to be playing in the first team, but it is a good place to get your confidence back and prove to yourself that you can do it and start off where you left off last time."

Foster's team-mate, the England full-back Gary Neville, stepped up his comeback by playing an hour for Manchester United reserves in Tuesday night's 2-0 defeat at Liverpool. The United club captain has spent almost 11 months on the sidelines with ankle ligament problems. Yet Neville could do little to prevent his side going down to a strong Liverpool side at Warrington Wolves' Halliwell Jones Stadium in front of a crowd of 10,546.

The Denmark defender Daniel Agger – also battling back from injury, having broken a metatarsal last September – Harry Kewell and Xabi Alonso were all in action for the Reds. Liverpool won with a first-half Alonso penalty and a late breakaway strike from Kewell.

The recent signing Martin Skrtel, a half-time replacement for Agger, and Jay Spearing also hit the bar for Liverpool.

Moments before Kewell wrapped up the win United's Danny Simpson was denied an equaliser when the referee ruled his header had not crossed the line.

United, who also had a Chris Eagles goal ruled out for offside, finished the game with 10 men after Richard Eckersley was dismissed for two bookable offences late on.