Roy Hodgson was probably the only person entirely happy with Saturday’s arid draw at St Mary’s. Fraser Forster of Southampton and Ben Foster of West Bromwich, the understudies to England goalkeeper Joe Hart, each had only a single save to make, but since men in their position sometimes have nothing to do for 89 minutes and then let in a soft goal, it would have been a comfort to Hodgson to hear that both maintained their concentration while many of the 27,598 paying customers were nodding off.
Forster, whose alert anticipation denied Brown Ideye a late goal on his debut for West Bromwich, arrived this summer from Celtic for £10m following the less-heralded capture of Dave Watson, the England goalkeeping coach, from Norwich City in July.
“I knew him from England and know how good he is,” Forster said. “The opportunity to work day in, day out with him was something I really wanted to do. That was a big draw and also the opportunity to work with [new Saints manager] Ronald Koeman is once-in-a-lifetime. He is a top coach, he was obviously a top, top player and to try and learn from a guy like that is what it is all about.”
Forster has left Champions League football behind in favour of what some consider will be a battle against relegation but he has no such fears.
“Once you speak to a few people in the club and see how ambitious they are there were never really any doubts in my head,” he said. “A few have gone out but we have got a lot of good players in. It will take time to gel but with the two performances we have put in so far we can be positive. Playing well for Southampton first and foremost is what it is all about, and if I do that, then we will just have to see what happens with England.”
The 38-minute cameo by Nigeria striker Ideye, Albion’s record signing at £9m from Dynamo Kiev, suggested that the risk taken by manager Alan Irvine on a player he had not seen play could pay off.
“I talked to [former Nigeria and Albion forward] Kanu one or two times in the week,” Ideye said. “He is a great guy and told me to be myself, do my best on the pitch, score goals and, hopefully, the fans and club will be behind me.
“I think with this game today my manager and team-mates have more confidence in me and believe I can really help the team. But today I was not lucky. At all of my other clubs I have scored a goal on my debut but today it was different. It was a great save.”
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